What Happens To Joint Tenancy Of Council House In Case Of Relationship Breakdown?

For a joint tenancy to exist, it is essential that both parties have equal rights and responsibilities towards the property in question. By the very nature of this type of tenancy, joint tenants are severally liable for the property. In case one of them fails to maintain their responsibilities; especially with regards to rental payments, the other one becomes solely responsible. 

What Happens To Joint Tenancy Of Council House In Case Of Relationship Breakdown?

What happens to a joint tenancy agreement of a council housing in the case of a relationship breakdown depends upon two factors primarily; one being the nature of the relationship and the other being the nature of the tenancy.

In an ideal situation, the relationship breakdown; whether it is the dissolution of a marriage or civil partnership or the end of a live-in partnership, matters remain cordial enough between both parties to arrive at a mutual agreement with regards to practical matters, including matters of their tenancy. 

Under such conditions, the tenants can inform the council of the change in their living conditions and request for a new tenancy agreement to be made in the name of the partner who plans to continue living in the council property while the other one leaves.

As a joint tenant both of you have the following rights:

  • Your right to stay in the property remains intact even at the end of a relationship; unless there is a court order demanding you to leave on reasonable grounds.
  • Both occupants continue to remain responsible for timely payments of rent as well as protection of council property. 
  • If one of the partners leaves the property, the remaining partner becomes responsible for rental payments.
  • If both partners decide to vacate the premises, they will be required to pay the rent amounting to the end of the contract.

If you were married or in a civil partnership, not only can your ex-partner be removed from the tenancy agreement upon dissolution of your relationship, you may be able to seek financial support from them as well. Your local Citizen’s Action Centre may help you with arranging financial support after you separate. In case of a divorce, tenancy transfer can be added in the divorce proceedings.

If one of the partners leaves the council premises and informs the social housing landlord or council office by serving a legal notice, the other partner will also have to leave the property.

If you are being asked to vacate the council house at the end of a relationship, you can seek an occupation order through the court that permits you to continue living under the premises especially if you are at risk of homelessness. 

To learn more about joint tenancy rights and responsibilities, we will try to answer the following questions:

  • Joint tenancy
  • Removal of ex-partner from joint tenancy
  • Transfer of council tenancy
  • Discretionary succession for a tenancy transfer
  • Sharing a council house

Can I Remove Ex Partner From Joint Tenancy Agreement?

Yes, you can remove your ex-partner from your joint tenancy agreement for council housing. However, the way that you may need to go about depends on your circumstances and relationship status.

If both of you are listed as joint tenants, you will need an agreement from your ex-partner and landlord for removal from the tenancy agreement. In this case, if your ex-partner fails to comply, they must be informed that being listed as joint tenant keeps them responsible for a contribution towards the council house rent. If your landlord or ex-partner do not agree to a tenancy transfer or your tenancy agreement prohibits it, you can file an application in court.

In the case of unmarried partners having children under the age of 18, the Family Law Act 1996 protects the welfare of the children. By seeking legal advice, you may be able to file an appeal in court for a tenancy transfer.

In cases where an ex-partner’s name is to be removed from council tenancy agreements due to domestic violence, you can get help from council authorities on a priority basis as this counts as being homeless.

Can I Transfer My Council House Tenancy To Someone Else?

Yes, you can transfer your council house tenancy to someone else but certain conditions need to be met for the transfer both by the tenant as well the individual to whom the council house is being transferred. This is only possible with the formal permission of your local council office.

You can either transfer your council house tenancy through succession or assignment. In case of succession tenancy, the council house tenant nominates an individual (usually a close family member) who may continue with their council house tenancy in the event of their death. In this case, one must remember that even though council houses can be passed down through succession but this can only be applied once per the tenancy agreement. For instance, if the tenancy has passed down from one person to another, the successor will not be able to pass it down again. 

In case of a tenancy being assigned to another individual, council housing tenants need to file an application for transfer of tenancy with their local council office. This may either be due to the current tenant moving out of council premises or seeking a mutual exchange of council property with someone else. In the case of the former, it is essential for both parties to be living in the council house in question for a minimum period of 12 months.

How Can I Transfer Tenancy Under Discretionary Succession Rights?

Discretionary succession rights are the rights to succession of someone who may not fulfil the desired criteria under statuary succession for council tenancy. As the name suggests, these are rights to being passed down a council house, at the discretion and decision of council authorities once claimants place their application to continue living in a council property after the death of the tenant in whose name the council tenancy agreement was originally made.

To claim discretionary succession rights under secure tenancy, the following terms must be kept in view by claimants as councils will be basing their decisions while considering them:

  • If the deceased tenant is only survived by a minor child(ren), the council authority will ask for a trustee to be appointed from their immediate family. In rare cases, housing association charities may serve as the trust under which the children continue to live at the premises.
  • In the case of a flexible tenancy in place, it is essential for the claiming spouse or partner to have shared the premises with the deceased for at least a year.
  • When there is more than one claimant for discretionary succession, the council expects the family members to make their choice in deciding who to nominate from the benefit of discretionary succession. If they fail to do so, the council has the authority to choose from the best option in their view.
  • If the discretionary successor is spouse or partner, they can continue living in the same council house for which the claim is being made. However, in the case of any other successor, the council has the right to assess the resident’s needs due to a change in the number of household members and re-assign another council property depending on the bedroom standard.

Can I Share My Council House With Someone?

Yes, someone can live with you in your council house as they are generally intended for eligible candidates and their families; whether they are dependants or non-dependants. However, if you are on Housing Benefit or Universal Credit, any changes to the number of people in your home might have an impact on the amount of benefit you were receiving prior to them moving in especially if they are expected to contribute towards the rent. Even if the additional occupants are not expected to contribute towards the rent, the council expects them to share your rent and taxes if they are non-dependants. This means that you will face a reduction in your benefits if someone who is classified as a non-dependant comes to live with you.

If you are under a Secure Tenancy or Fixed Tenancy agreement with the housing authorities, you may sub-let rooms in your council house; however, subletting of the entire council house is not allowed. You will find a clause in your tenancy agreement that confirms the same. Therefore, it is advisable not to add someone to your council house with the intention of subletting the premises.


Council houses are intended to provide an affordable living space not only to the tenant in whose name the tenancy agreement is drawn but also their immediate family members who will be sharing the premises with them. When more than one family member intends to share the expenses of renting a property, they form a joint tenancy agreement which defines their legal obligation towards rental payments and general maintenance of the council property that they occupy. Generally, it is spouses or partners who undertake joint tenancies.

In the unfortunate incidence of a relationship breakdown, the joint tenancy is also affected especially if one of the partners chooses to leave the premises despite having the right to continue living in the premises. In cases where the relationship has ended on amicable terms, both tenants can inform their landlord of the change in circumstances and have a fresh tenancy agreement in place. Complications arise when one partner has to remove the other from the tenancy agreement as they discontinue rental payments or one has to leave the property due to fear of domestic abuse. In either case, one must seek professional advice prior to making any decision.

FAQs: What Happens To Joint Tenancy Of Council House In Case Of Relationship Breakdown?

What happens if joint tenants who are in a relationship split up?

If joint tenants split up and one of them wants to continue living in the property that they were previously in, while the other one chooses to move out, they will need to contact their landlord to have a tenancy transfer in place so that a new contract is made in the name of the residing partner. Otherwise, in case of a joint tenancy agreement in place, the partner who chooses to move out will continue to remain liable for rental payments of the property.

What happens if one person leaves a joint tenancy?

A joint tenancy does not end with one of the joint tenants moving out of the premises. They need to inform the landlord of this change in occupancy status so that the tenant who continues to live in the house assumes sole tenancy as well as the complete responsibility for rental payments. 

How do you break a joint tenancy agreement?

If a joint tenant gives valid notice at the end of a tenancy contract (in some cases a fixed term), the joint tenancy will come to an end, even if there is a lack of consent from other joint tenants.

Can you kick a joint tenant out?

No, you cannot force a joint tenant to vacate the premises as they may issue a court order against such actions.

Who gets the house when an unmarried couple splits up UK?

Unlike in the case of the dissolution of a marriage or civil partnership, when there is a split up between unmarried couples in the UK, there are no legal rights on each other’s property, including a house.


2. Your Council Tenancy & Relationship Breakdown

Joint tenancies and relationship breakdowns – Buckles Law

Relationship breakdown | Merton Council

What happens to your home when you separate – Citizens Advice

Housing and relationship breakdown | Tendring District Council

Can I pass on my Council tenancy to someone else?

Giving your tenancy to someone else | Your council tenancy | The Highland Council

Transferring your Tenancy

Tenancy succession | Islington Council

Succession to a tenancy | Westminster City Council