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The law on relationship breakdown

This content applies to England & Wales

The legislation for cohabiting couples experiencing a relationship breakdown who occupy under a sole tenancy or sole licence.

Family law

The Family Law Act 1996 gives some cohabitants the right to apply for an occupation order of the family home. It also allows the court to order a transfer of liabilities in respect of a family home rented solely by one of the partners and to order a transfer of tenancy from one cohabitant to the other. For cohabitants with children, the Children Act 1989 may also be relevant.

Housing law

The rights of cohabitants where one of them is a sole tenant or sole licensee to occupy the family home are largely governed by housing law. Housing law explains the status of occupiers and determines their rights to occupy. It lays down rules about assignment of tenancies, termination of tenancies and licences and rights to protection from eviction. It contains rules that determine who is liable for rent and arrears. The relevant legislation in each situation will depend on the particular type of tenancy or licence.

This section does not look in detail at the different types of tenure. For more information about different tenancies and licences, see the Security of tenure section.

Sole tenancies and licences

A sole tenancy means that one person only is the tenant or licensee of the property, even though other people may be living there. In this section, 'non-tenant cohabitant' is used for the cohabiting partner who is not the tenant of the family home and 'non-licensee cohabitant' for the cohabiting partner who is not the licensee of the family home.

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