Managing a joint tenancy can be a complicated matter in the case of a relationship breakdown; whether you are renting privately or through the council; even though the process that you may need to follow in both cases may be slightly different. The aim of this article is to explore the possibilities in the case of a joint tenancy of private tenants being affected by a relationship breakdown. For a holistic view of the topic, we will also discuss the rights of a joint tenant when an ex-partner leaves the house, the possibility of transferring a joint tenancy and whether an ex-partner can be removed from a tenancy agreement.

What Happens To Joint Tenancy In Case Of Relationship Breakdown?

In case of a relationship breakdown, your joint tenancy agreement will not come to an end immediately even if one of the joint tenants decides to leave the premises and live somewhere else. The departing joint tenant will continue to remain liable to pay rent and will have equal right to occupy the house until the joint tenancy agreement comes to an end with mutual agreement of all concerned parties and is replaced by a sole tenancy agreement of their former partner; should they wish to continue living in the said premises.

However, in the case of a fixed-term or periodic tenancy, if one joint tenant wishes to end the tenancy contract, it will end for all joint tenants living on the property. In some cases, a break clause allows earlier termination of the contract. In such cases, the joint tenant who continues living under the tenancy agreement may be faced with a challenging situation if the departing tenant has given a notice to the landlord and they have been served a notice to quit. This means that even if they do not wish to depart from the premises, they will have to do so as the tenancy agreement will cease to exist at the end of one month’s notice.

In the case of a rolling tenancy, you can have the tenancy agreement transferred to your name if your partner chooses to leave the house and live elsewhere. You will have three options for the purpose:

  • Option 1: End your current joint tenancy agreement and have it transferred to you as a sole tenant.
  • Option 2: Change the names on your tenancy agreement through a process called “assignment”.
  • Option 3: Go to court.

A temporary solution to this situation is to seek an injunction order from the court to stop your ex from serving a notice to quit the tenancy, especially in the case of domestic abuse by a former partner.

Despite this, should the landlord permit the remaining joint tenant to continue living in the property, they can ask them to give the notice to end their tenancy agreement and then enter into a new contract under sole tenancy status.

If you are successful in getting an agreement from your former partner, they may assign their tenancy to you when they leave. In this case, you will require a deed of assignment to be signed by them.

Whether or not you are married to your former partner or you have children together or not, as per the Family Law Act 1996, the tenant who stays back in the property can apply for a transfer of tenancy to their name once a former partner leaves the house after a relationship breakdown.

Can A Joint Tenancy Be Transferred After A Relationship Breakdown?

Yes, it is possible for a joint tenancy to be transferred to a sole tenancy agreement under court orders after a relationship breakdown. For this to take place, the following conditions are required to be met:

  • In the case of married couples, you can apply under the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 to be assigned sole tenancy at the end of a joint tenancy agreement. However, this is only possible in case of a divorce or separation.
  • If the previous joint tenants are not married but have children together who are under the age of 18 years, the Children Act of 1989, a joint tenancy may be transferred to a sole tenancy for the benefit of the children.

In such a case the court will consider the following:

  • The current and potential financial needs, obligations and responsibilities of both parties.
  • The current and potential financial circumstances of both parties. This includes incomes, savings, property and earning capacity. 
  • The current and potential financial circumstances of the child (or children) in question.
  • Any physical or learning disability faced by the child (or children).
  • The manner in which the child (or children) are going to be educated or trained.

What Are My Rights In A Joint Tenancy If My Partner Leaves Me?

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.

As joint tenants 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 the 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 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. 

Can I Remove Ex-Partner From Tenancy Agreement?

Yes, you can remove your ex-partner from your tenancy agreement; however, the way that you may need to go about depends on your circumstances and relationship status.

If you are both 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 a joint tenant keeps them responsible for a contribution towards the house rent. If your landlord or ex-partner does not agree to a tenancy transfer or your tenancy agreement prohibits it, you can file an application in court.

However, if you are listed as the tenant and they are listed as an occupant, you can simply inform your landlord of the change and ask them to draw up a fresh tenancy agreement. If your partner is listed as the tenant and you as the occupant, you have the status changed through mutual agreement of your landlord and ex-partner by having a fresh tenancy agreement drawn up. If your ex-partner is not willing to assign the tenancy to you or your landlord fails to support your claim, you can file an appeal in court.

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 to the divorce proceedings.

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.

Conclusion:

The details discussed in this article highlight the fact that there are various consequences arising out of the relationship breakdown of joint tenants and depending on individual circumstances, there may be different options available to each individual. However, as a general rule, if a partner chooses to leave the premises at the end of a relationship, they will still continue to remain liable to pay rent and will have equal right to occupy the house until the joint tenancy agreement comes to an end with mutual agreement of all concerned parties. 

FAQs: What Happens To Joint Tenancy 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.

How do I change from joint tenancy to sole tenancy?

To change from a joint tenancy to a sole tenancy, you will need an agreement from your joint tenant and landlord. On the basis of this, a new tenancy contract will be made stating you as the sole tenant. 

What are my rights as a joint tenant?

As joint tenants, both parties enjoy equal rights as well as responsibilities to the premises. They are equally responsible for rent payments as well as maintenance of the property that they live in. In case of the death of a joint tenant, the surviving partner becomes the sole tenant of the premises.

References:

What happens to your home when you separate – Citizens Advice

Relationship Breakdown and Tenancies – FAQ – Nearly Legal: Housing Law News and Comment

Ending your tenancy – Citizens Advice

What happens to your home when you separate – Citizens Advice

Joint tenancy and relationship breakdown

Relationship Breakdown and Tenancies – FAQ – Nearly Legal: Housing Law News and Comment

Relationship breakdown: joint tenancies – Shelter England

Action-to-take-when-a-relationship-ends.pdf

Benefits-you-may-be-entitled-to-if-you-are-separating

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