Who pays the rent if we separate before divorce?

Who is responsible for paying the rent when you separate from your spouse is not clear cut and depends on several factors, such as whether you rent from a private landlord or local authority. You will also need to consider who is named on the tenancy agreement, if the term is fixed or has ended, and you are now on a rolling contract. All these things, and more, can affect who pays for the rent when you separate before divorce.

If you are experiencing issues with your relationship and you feel you need legal advice to resolve matters, contact specialist family solicitor Maria Coster of Stowe Family Law. Maria has an excellent record in family law matters as well as being involved in a number of complex cases involving issues such as domestic violence, substance misuse, and parental alienation.

Does it matter whose name is on the tenancy agreement?

If you are both named on the tenancy agreement, then you will be considered “joint tenants” and therefore have the same rights to remain in the property, and liability for paying your share of the rent, even if you move out. This is because joint tenants are “jointly and severally” liable for the outgoings on the property, and is a legal term used in contracts and agreements. It means that when more than one party is involved in an obligation, they are both responsible (jointly liable) for fulfilling it. Additionally, each party is individually responsible (severally liable) for the entire obligation, which allows a landlord to choose to pursue either or both parties for payment. Unfortunately, the person the landlord generally chooses to pursue for payment is the party who remains in the home.

If only one of you is named as the tenant, then you will not have the same rights to remain in the property. But equally, you will not have to pay towards the rent either, as that would remain the responsibility of the person named on the tenancy agreement.

How do I make sure the rent is paid if I separate from my partner?

As stated above, if your name is on the tenancy agreement, then you will be responsible for making sure the rent is paid. For joint tenancies, you are both equally responsible for paying it. This means that if they move out and refuse to pay, but you are still living at the property, the landlord could ask you for the full monthly amount. Fundamentally,  it is going to be easier for the landlord to get you to pay than going after your ex, who is unlikely to be willing to offer anything, particularly if they are paying rent on a new property.

If your ex is refusing to contribute, or the tenancy is your sole responsibility, and you are struggling to make rental payments, contact your landlord and explain the issues. See if you are entitled to any benefits if you cannot manage on your income.


My partner has moved out of our rented home that was in his sole name. What can I do?

Firstly, ask your landlord if they will rent the property to you. This is called “assignment”, and will give you control over the rent.  Whilst this is being arranged, your partner should continue to make the rental payments. If they refuse, then it is always open to the landlord to take steps towards eviction, although if you have already approached them and asked for the tenancy agreement to be assigned, then this is unlikely.

You can also apply to the court to change your ex-partner’s tenancy into your name, if:

  • The landlord refuses to change/assign the tenancy
  • The tenancy doesn’t allow a transfer/assignment
  • Your ex-partner refuses to agree to a transfer/assignment

It is generally not worth applying to court to transfer or assign the tenancy if it is an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST), and best suits housing association landlords.

If you are married or in a civil partnership, then you have what is referred to as ‘home rights’. This means that you legally have the right to stay in the home, but of course, this relies on continuing payment of the rent. If you are cohabiting, then you have no automatic rights to remain in the property, and your ex-partner can ask you to leave, providing they give you reasonable notice.

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