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Liability for rent

This content applies to England & Wales

Liability for rent following the breakdown of a relationship.

Cohabiting sole tenants

The position of the cohabiting sole tenant and the non-tenant cohabitant in relation to liability for rent can be summarised as follows:

  • the tenant remains liable for the rent as long as the tenancy continues
  • the tenant's rent liability is brought to an end if the tenancy is ended with a valid notice to quit and s/he moves out (see 'validity of notice to quit' on the page on Solutions not involving the courts for details)
  • the court can order a transfer of rent liability from one cohabitant to another under family law
  • rent liability is transferred on the voluntary assignment of a tenancy
  • obtaining an occupation order does not make the non-tenant cohabitant liable for rent.

However, there are a number of practical issues that need to be addressed:

  • non-tenant cohabitants have no automatic right to pay rent. The landlord can refuse payment, unless an occupation order has been obtained by a non-tenant cohabitant
  • if there is no occupation order and rent is refused, this may lead to arrears, which will give the landlord a right to possession
  • if the landlord accepts rent from the non-tenant cohabitant knowing that the tenant has gone, it may be possible to argue that the s/he has entered into a new contract for a new tenancy with the cohabitant
  • a non-tenant cohabitant/former cohabitant should be treated as liable for housing benefit purposes (as the partner/former partner of the liable person) if s/he needs to make the rent payments to stay in the accommodation.[1] See the section on Housing benefit for more information about housing benefit.

Cohabiting sole licensees

The position of the cohabiting sole licensee and the non-licensee cohabitant in relation to liability for rent can be summarised as follows:

  • the licensee remains liable for the rent as long as the licence continues
  • the licensee's rent liability is brought to an end if the licence is ended with a valid notice and s/he moves out (see 'validity of notice to quit' on the page on solutions not involving the courts)
  • the court can order a transfer of rent liability from one cohabitant to another under family law
  • obtaining an occupation order does not make the non-licensee cohabitant liable for rent.

However, there are a number of practical issues that need to be addressed:

  • non-licensee cohabitants have no automatic right to pay rent. The landlord can refuse payment, unless an occupation order has been obtained by a non-licensee cohabitant
  • if there is no occupation order and rent is refused, this may lead to arrears, which will give the landlord a right to possession
  • if the landlord accepts rent from the non-licensee cohabitant knowing that the licensee has gone, it may be possible to argue that the s/he has entered into a new contract for a new licence with the cohabitant
  • a non-licensee cohabitant/former cohabitant should be treated as liable for housing benefit purposes (as the partner/former partner of the liable person) if s/he needs to make the rent payments to stay in the accommodation.[2] See the section on Housing benefit for more information about housing benefit.

 

[1] reg 6(1) Housing Benefit (General) Regulations 1987 SI 1987/1971.

[2] reg 6(1) Housing Benefit (General) Regulations 1987 SI 1987/1971.

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