Unmarried couples: Whether you are joint tenants or the tenancy is in your ex’s name only an application can be made (under the Family Law Act 1996) to court for a transfer of the tenancy into the other’s. Notice has to be provided to the landlord in advance of the hearing, and there may be several hearings before a decision is reached. Most local authorities and housing associations do not recognise agreements to transfer the property from one person’s name to another or from their joint names to a single name unless by a court order.
There are a number of factors which the court take into account when dealing with an application to transfer a tenancy, their first concern will be if you have any children, if you or your ex is disabled, the basis upon which the tenancy was originally granted, whether there is alternative accommodation, as well as the chances of being rehoused by the local authority.
It is important that neither you, nor your ex makes yourself ‘intentionally homeless’ by voluntarily leaving the property. To do so means that you are unlikely to be re-housed by the local authority even if you are in priority need. You should therefore only leave the property if forced to do so by a court order.
There are some tenancies left granted under the Rent Acts with private landlords. These tenants have considerable security and pay a protected ‘fair rent’, often considerably less than the market rent. You, or your ex, can hold the property on the same terms as the original tenant. The local authority would regard violence by your ex as an action making you intentionally homeless.
Married couples: The property is the ‘matrimonial home’ and you have rights – including not to be evicted without a court order.
Thanks very much to Punam Denley, a partner at the International Family Law Group LLP for reviewing and to David Hodson, also partner at the International Family Law Group LLP, who reviewed an earlier version which appeared in A Parent’s Guide to the Law by Jon Robins (LawPack , 2009). Stephen Lawson, a litigation partner at Forshaws Davies Ridgway LLP assisted with the section on the CSA.