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Whose tenancy is it anyway?

Last night on Eastenders we saw the inevitable break up of Martin and Stacey’s relationship which had been brewing since Christmas when she cheated on her husband.

A violent showdown between the two ended with Martin throwing Stacey out of their home declaring that “I gave you everything. You ain’t having the kids and you ain’t having this house”.

Earlier the couple had confirmed that they were both named on the tenancy of their home and Martin had refused to leave when Stacey told him he must now that the relationship was over.

So not only will there be a heated battle over the children, but also over the family home.

So what happens to a joint tenancy in a relationship breakdown?

Firstly, the remaining tenant will be liable for all the rent even if the other joint tenant has left. This may cause financial hardship leading to rent arrears and possibly possession proceedings.

Also the departing tenant legally has a right to move back in at any time although you could prevent this by a court order, especially if there has been domestic violence.

If one of the joint tenants gives ‘notice’ to terminate the tenancy then this will end the tenancy for all tenants whether they want it to or not! You also need to note that if you are on a fixed term tenancy (as opposed to a periodic/rolling tenancy), you can only end a tenancy early either if the landlord agrees or there is a break clause.

To avoid early termination of the joint tenancy by your ex-partner, you can apply to the court for a transfer of tenancy to remove their name from the tenancy (which you may wish to deal with as part of any divorce proceedings if you are married)

The best advice is to try and negotiate a new tenancy with the landlord in your sole name but obviously bearing in mind that the rent will probably remain the same even though it is only one of you paying now.

You should also bear in mind the effect it may have your ability to apply for council/social housing if either your name remains on a tenancy or you are deemed to made yourself ‘voluntary homeless’ by leaving suitable housing.

If in doubt advice should be sought at the earliest opportunity from your local CAB, shelter, or a specialist solicitor.