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Rights if you live with your partner in rented accommodation

If you are moving into rented accommodation with your partner, your rights will differ depending on whose name is on the tenancy agreement. If you are married or in a civil partnership, you will have stronger rights, even if your name isn't on the tenancy agreement. This page explains what your rights are and what you can do to strengthen them.

How do I know what my rights are?

If you live in rented accommodation with your husband, wife or partner, your rights and responsibilities will depend on:

  • who your landlord is (for example, the council or a private landlord)
  • whose name is on the tenancy agreement.

You can check your tenancy type and then find out your rights in the renting rights section.

Whose name is on the tenancy agreement?

A tenancy agreement is a contract between the landlord and tenant. It sets out the tenant's rights to live in a rented property. If you live with your partner:

  • both of you can have your name on the tenancy agreement, as joint tenants
  • you can each have separate tenancy agreements with your landlord
  • only one of you may have their name on the tenancy agreement, as a sole tenant.

We are joint tenants

If you have a joint tenancy agreement, you both have exactly the same rights and responsibilities. You are both equally responsible for paying the rent and keeping to the terms of your tenancy agreement.

We have separate tenancies

If you have signed separate tenancy agreements with your landlord, you will only be responsible for your own share of the rent. However, if you live together as a couple, you are unlikely to have separate tenancies.

One of us is a sole tenant

Most tenancy agreements give you the right to live in your home along with your husband, wife or partner and other members of your family. This means that as long as one of you is a tenant and has your name on the tenancy agreement, your partner has a right to live there with you.

If you are moving in with your partner or your partner is moving in with you, it's best to check your tenancy agreement and speak to your landlord first.

My name isn't on the tenancy agreement - what rights do I have?

If your name isn't on the tenancy agreement, you won't be responsible for paying the rent or maintaining the tenancy. However, if your partner leaves, your landlord will probably accept rent payments from you in their absence and may even be prepared to transfer the tenancy into your name. If your relationship is breaking down, you might want to explain the situation to your landlord and ask them to let you know if your spouse or civil partner attempts to end the tenancy.

The tenant will need to get their husband, wife or civil partner's written permission if they want to:

  • carry out major improvements to the property
  • take in a lodger
  • pass on (assign) the tenancy to anyone else
  • end the tenancy.

Unfortunately, your landlord won't necessarily know this, and may be prepared to end the tenancy at your spouse's request if they are the named tenant. Remember, the tenant will also need the landlord's permission to do any of these things. If your name is not on the tenancy agreement, bear in mind that your landlord may not know that the tenant's husband, wife or civil partner needs to give permission too.

If the tenant's husband, wife or civil partner is being unreasonable and refuses to give their permission, they can take the matter to court. Get advice from a solicitor if you're considering this course of action.

Does it make a difference if we're married or in a civil partnership?

If you are married or have registered a civil partnership, you will have much stronger rights. Many people assume that if they live together, they have the same rights as a married couple, but this is not the case. There is no such thing as 'common law marriage' in Scotland.

Even if your name is not on the tenancy agreement, you can still take on the responsibilities of being a tenant. This means you don't need to ask your spouse's consent to do anything normally associated with maintaining the tenancy. For example, you're entitled to:

  • pay the rent
  • get the landlord to carry out any repairs they're responsible for
  • carry out any essential repairs yourself
  • carry out any improvements you have permission for.

As mentioned above 'My name isn't on the tenancy agreement - what rights do I have?' your partner needs your written permission to end the tenancy so make sure your landlord knows that they need to have your agreement if your partner asks to end the tenancy. Your landlord may be willing to transfer the tenancy into your name.

Scotland map Housing laws differ between Scotland and England.
This content applies to Scotland only.
Get advice if you're England

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