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Relationship breakdown for joint tenants

The relevant legislation for cohabiting joint tenants or joint licensees experiencing a relationship breakdown is a combination of family and housing law.

This content applies to England & Wales

Joint tenancies and licences

A joint tenancy means that two or more people are the tenants of the property, even though other people may be living there.

Both tenants are jointly and separately liable for the full amount of the rent, regardless of who is occupying the home.

None of the joint tenants can exclude any of the other joint tenants except by court order.

The same situation applies to joint licensees.

Rights to occupy the home

Where a cohabiting couple are joint tenants or licensees, both partners have legal rights to occupy their home. Their right of occupation arises because they have a contractual or statutory right to occupy from housing law.

Their rights continue for the duration of the tenancy or licence unless they are ended by the occupiers' own actions, the actions of the landlord, or by a court order.

Family law

The Family Law Act 1996 gives some cohabitants the right to apply for an occupation order to enforce or restrict rights to occupy the home.

The Act also allows the court to transfer the tenancy from one cohabitant to the other in some circumstances.

The Children Act 1989 may be relevant if there are children.

Housing law

The rights of cohabiting joint tenants to occupy the family home are 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.

Where there is a relationship breakdown between two cohabiting joint tenants, housing law gives options not involving the courts.

The relevant legislation in each situation depends on the particular type of tenancy or licence.

Last updated: 1 July 2022