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Whose name is the tenancy agreement in?

If you live in rented accommodation and someone in your household dies, your right to remain living there will depend on whose name the tenancy agreement was in or if it was under a joint tenancy. This page explains why the name on the lease matters and how this affects your rights.

Why does it matter?

It is important for you to find out whether you (and any other people living with you) have the same rights to live in the house as the person who has died, or whether the person who has died had all the rights and simply let you stay there.

It may be that everyone living in the house has a right to stay there such as in a joint tenancy and the fact that the other person has passed away may not affect your rights.

Or, if the tenancy agreement is only in the name of the person who has died, this could affect your right to keep living in the house and you may have to take action to see if a new lease can be agreed in your name.

What type of lease?

One of the first things you need to check is whether the lease agreement is in the name of only one person (a sole tenancy), more than one person (a joint tenancy) or whether each separate person has their own separate agreement with different terms and conditions (separate tenancies).

Next, find out exactly whose name the tenancy agreement is in. If only one name is on the lease, it is important to know who it is so that you can find out whether you still have a right to live in the house or not.

Depending on how many of you have been living together in the house, this can be quite complicated to work out. Although you may think that you all have the same rights and responsibilities, and it may look that way from the outside, this is not necessarily case. If one person living in the house dies, any differences in the type of agreement could be very important to you.

Do I have any rights if I am still living with my parents?

No matter how old you are, if you still live with your parents and either your mum or dad has died you will only be able to stay in the house if one of your parents has a right to have the lease in their own name instead and they agree that you can keep living there. This will only happen if one of your parents is still around. However, it will depend on who the landlord is and whether or not your parents were married or in a civil partnership.

If both of your parents have died, you need to get advice straight away as you may not be able to keep living in the house. You can contact your local Shelter advice centre or Citizens Advice about this. Use our Advice Services Directory to find help near you.

If both of your parents have died and you're not old enough to live on your own without your parents, you need to get some help as soon as possible. If this has happened to you, you must be feeling very frightened and the best people to speak to would be ChildLine. You can call them on 0800 1111 to speak to a friendly person who can help you or visit their website if you don't feel up to talking to anyone. It's free to phone ChildLine. If you can't get through first time, don't give up - just keep trying until you do.

What happens if the lease is only in my name?

If you have a tenancy agreement which is in your name only, the fact that someone living with you dies does not affect your living arrangements because you will continue to have a right to live there until the lease ends as long as you continue to pay your rent regularly and stick to all the other things you have already agreed with your landlord. You will have this right no matter whom you are renting from or what type of tenancy agreement you have. This is because the legal agreement is for you to rent the property and no one else can affect that agreement.

If you are in this situation but are living with someone else who dies and your landlord tries to make you pay more rent or make any other changes to your agreement, seek more detailed advice before you agree to anything.

Likewise, if you have a separate tenancy from the person who has died and also anyone else living in the house, your rights to continue living there will not be affected by the fact that one of your housemates has died. Again, don't agree to pay any more rent until you have spoken to an adviser who can help you.

What happens if my husband, wife or partner was the tenant and they have died?

If you are married or in a civil partnership with the person who died or if you were living with them as their partner (ie 'cohabiting'), you may have an automatic right to take over the tenancy in your own name. This legal right is called succession and your rights here will depend on who the landlord is and also on the relationship you had with the person who died. Even if you have been going out with the person for a very long time and they are the closest person to you, this doesn't mean that you will automatically have any rights. Although it might seem weird, your rights of succession depend on your relationship in the eyes of the law and you should take further advice on this if you're not sure about where you stand.

What happens if there is more than one name on the lease?

If you find out that you do not have a tenancy that is only in your name, the situation may be more complicated.

If you have a joint tenancy along with the person who has died, you will have had an equal right to live in the property when the other person was alive, along with an equal responsibility to pay the rent and council tax. Now that the other tenant has passed away, the joint tenancy will probably come to an end automatically. Don't panic though - this does not necessarily mean you will have to leave your home. As a joint tenant, you might have the right to take over the lease in your own name. This is called succession. Again, your rights will depend on who the landlord is and what type of lease agreement you have.

Benefits

Remember that a death in the household may also affect any benefits that are being claimed. Contact your local advice agency or benefits office for futher information.

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This content applies to Scotland only.
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