Homelessness and Relationship Breakdowns

If you are living with family, friends or a partner and the relationship breaks down, you will need to decide what to do about your home when you separate. 

Your legal right to remain in your property will depend on a number of factors including: 

  • The legal status of your relationship 
  • Whether you are a joint or sole tenant or owner of the property 
  • Whether you have dependant children residing in the property 
  • Whether you can enforce any rights you have through the courts. 

If you have a legal right to occupy a property, you may not be eligible for further assistance to find another property. We will assess each case on its circumstances. 

If you approach the Housing Options Team for advice and assistance regarding your rights to a property after a relationship breakdown, we will ask to speak to the other party so long as it is safe to do so. We may arrange for you to stay in the property temporarily whilst we work with you to help you find somewhere else to live.

Ending your Tenancy Agreement

If you rent your property from the council or a private landlord it is important you check with them the procedure for ending your tenancy. 

You should also check if you are a joint tenant at the property as this may entitle you to additional rights to the property. In order to end a tenancy agreement the tenant or tenants would be required to ‘give notice’ to the landlord. This is normally required in writing and dependant on the situation in which you are ending the tenancy, may require a signature from you and your partner. 

Make enquiries with your landlord directly for further information. 

It is important to obtain the correct information relating to your tenancy before you consider ending it, as to do so may cause you to be considered ‘intentionally homeless’. 

If you are a joint tenant and move out of the property, you will legally remain liable for any breaches in the tenancy agreement such as rent arrears.

If your partner is the sole tenant and formally ends the tenancy by giving legal notice to their landlord then this will end the tenancy for both of you, even if you do not wish to move out. 

You should not end a tenancy until you have found somewhere else to live.

Home Ownership

If you’re both on the title deeds, it means that you both own the property and will need to decide jointly what decisions are made regarding it. It is important that you seek legal advice if you are considering selling your home. If your name isn’t on the title deeds but you can prove that you have contributed to the property in other ways such as paying the mortgage, then you could be considered as having a ‘beneficial interest’ in the property and therefore legal rights. 

Married Couples 

If your partner is the sole tenant but you are married, you have the right to: 

  • Occupy the matrimonial home, and not be excluded, except by a court order. 
  • If you are not occupying the home, you can apply for a court order to regain entry to the property and live there. If you are married and divorce proceedings have begun then you can ask the court to transfer the tenancy into your name. The court will consider both your situations before deciding whether to do this. Please seek suitable legal advice before applying to court. 

Housing rights in a relationship breakdown can be complicated and you may need to seek legal advice. Many law firms offer fixed fee interviews where you can get comprehensive advice on your legal rights to remain in the property and how the matter can be resolved longer term. 

You can check whether you’re eligible for help with the costs involved using the Legal Aid Checker.

The Homeless Charity Shelter has produced a guide for people who are experiencing relationship breakdowns and what their housing rights are after splitting up. The guide can be accessed via: Relationship breakdown - Shelter England.

You may consider applying for an Occupation Order which is issued by the family court under Part IV Family Law Act 1996 and sets out who has the right to stay at the family home, who can return and who should be excluded.

Living with Friends and Family 

You may be living in a property owned or rented by friends and family, including parents or other relatives. If you do not pay rent, or do not have exclusive use of the property, then it is likely that you will not have any legal rights to remain there if the owner or tenant asks you to leave. 

In these situations, we will negotiate with the excluder to see if there is an option for you to remain at the property so long as it is safe and reasonable for you to do so. We will consider whether changes in behaviour, payments of board and lodge or mediation would help the situation so you have somewhere to stay immediately. We will then work with you to find longer-term accommodation if you wish. 

If you want help in finding your own permanent home, the person you are living with does not have to ask you to leave for you to be eligible for this. We can still provide you with advice and assistance, and help you with a planned move in accordance with our Allocation Policy, even if the person you are living with allows you to stay with them on a temporary basis. You can speak to the Housing Options Team for more information regarding this.



Shelter has produced a guide for people who have experienced a relationship breakdown and what their housing rights are after splitting up

Tel: 0344 515 1944. 

Website: www.england.shelter.org.uk

Citizen’s Advice

Support with general and legal advice and help

Tel: 0808 278 7874


Services include Relationship Counselling and mediation for individuals and couples. Support can be provided face to face with licensed local counsellors or via phone, email and live chat.

Tel: 0121 643 1638 

Website: www.relate.org.uk/

Staffordshire Family Mediation Service

Helping families in conflict, especially those divorcing or separating.

Tel: 01827 314020 

Email: enquiries@staffsmediation.co.uk

Contact us

The Housing Options Team, based at Stafford Borough Council, can provide you with advice on your housing needs and explain what options are available to you. 

You can contact us by

Phone: 01785 619000

Email: housingadvice@staffordbc.gov.uk 

If you are homeless and the council offices are closed, then you can contact the homelessness out of hours service on 01785 619170. You should only use this service if you have nowhere to stay immediately. 

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