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Housing and relationship breakdown

If your partner owns the property

If you are not married and share your home with a partner who owns the property, you are likely to have few rights to remain in the property unless you have children. If your partner wants you to leave, he/she can probably just tell you and give you some time to do so. You may be able to get some extra rights in the short term by applying to the court for an occupation order. You need to seek expert advice about how to do this.

If you don't have children, you will only have any long term rights to remain in the property if you have a financial share (interest) or a right to stay in the property. For example, you might have had a written agreement with your partner that you should have a share of the value of the property when it was sold. Some people have financial interests that are not written down anywhere. You may be able to argue that you have a financial interest if you made, or contributed towards, mortgage payments, paid towards the deposit or agreed with your partner when you bought the property that it belonged to you both even though you were not going to put your name on the mortgage.

If your partner does not agree that you should have an interest in the property you can ask the court to decide. The court will look at anything in writing which states that you have an interest and will consider any discussions that you and your partner have had about the property. Other things that might be relevant will be if you gave up somewhere else to live on the understanding that you would be able to stay long term and any money you have paid for the property. This is a very complicated area of law and you will need to take expert legal advice.

Court orders - unmarried couples

If your partner tries to make you leave while you are sorting out your interest in the property you might be able to get an occupation order to allow you to stay in the short term.

If you can show that you have got an interest in the property you will have a right to stay and you will be able to apply to the court to order or postpone the sale of the property if you cannot both agree what to do. If you are worried that your partner may try to sell or remortgage the property you should seek legal advice straight away.

If you are married and your partner owns the property you live in you will have rights to stay in the property in the short term. You have a right to:

  • occupy your matrimonial home, and not be evicted except by court order
  • register a 'charge' on the home, which will entitle you to prevent your partner selling or re-mortgaging the property
  • pay the mortgage (although you will not be held legally liable for payments unless liability has been transferred by the court), this is useful if your partner leaves or stops paying.

Court orders - married couples

If you and your partner cannot agree about living arrangements in the short term then you can apply to the court for an occupation order which will set out your rights. In the longer term the court can transfer the property into your name as part of your divorce proceedings in the same way as a joint owner. You might be able to argue that you have a financial stake in the property in the same way as a joint owner or you might be able to argue that you have a financial stake in the property in the same way as an unmarried non-owner (see previous section).