Decisions to make before moving in with your partner

Moving in with a partner can be exciting and fun. It may also be more convenient than living separately, and will often work out cheaper as well. However, you should think about the implications of living together as a couple. It's not just a question of adapting to another person's lifestyle. Living together as a couple can affect your finances and your right to stay in your home.

Things to think about

The things you will need to think about when you move in with your partner may vary depending on your circumstances:

  • you'll need to decide what kind of financial contribution you will each make

  • if you have children, you will need to make sure that your rights to stay in the home are as secure as possible

It helps to know your rights and think about what would happen if you were to split up later on. If you are not married or in a civil partnership, you could find yourself with very limited rights.

Cohabitation contracts

If you want to formalise your living arrangements, you and your partner can draw up a cohabitation contract or ‘living together agreement’. This could help set out what rights and responsibilities you both have. It could include details of:

  • how you will divide up and pay the rent or mortgage and household bills

  • childcare arrangements

  • what rights you each have to stay in the home if you split up

  • what rights you will have to any shared belongings (for example, furniture or a car) if you split up

Drawing up a contract will make you think through the issues you might face. In addition, it will provide proof of your original intentions when you moved in together.

The contract will not be legally binding unless it is drawn up by a solicitor. Even then, you will not be able to enforce it in court if it contains unfair terms or is not in the best interests of any children you may have.

Renting accommodation together

There are lots of things to consider if you have decided to rent a room or flat together.

What type of place will we rent?

You may want to put your name down on the waiting list for accommodation from the council, a housing association or a housing cooperative. If you rent from the council, a housing association or a housing cooperative, you will either be a Scottish secure tenant or a short Scottish secure tenant. This can be an affordable option that offers you strong tenancy rights. Unfortunately, waiting lists can be long, and you may have to consider renting privately in the meantime.

If you decide to rent from a private landlord or letting agency you can look at our tips for finding private rented accommodation.

Whose name should go on the tenancy agreement?

You'll also need to decide whether you want to have separate tenancies, a joint tenancy, or whether just one of you will have the tenancy in their name. Each of these options gives you different rights – read the page on your rights if you rent together to find out more.

Bear in mind:

  • if you have a joint tenancy, you and your partner will be jointly and individually responsible for paying the rent. This means that if your partner does not pay their share, you will have to pay it for them

  • if your name is not on the tenancy agreement and you are not married or in a civil partnership you will not have many rights. You may have to move out if you and your partner split up

If one of you already lives there, is the partner allowed to move in?

If one partner is moving into accommodation the other partner rents, it's important that you clear this with the landlord first. Most tenancy agreements give the tenant the right to live in the property along with their spouse or partner, their children and other members of their family. However, it's best to check first. If the tenancy agreement does not allow the tenant to move their partner in, you may both be evicted.

If anything goes wrong with your relationship, the non-tenant will be in a stronger position if the landlord knows they are living there. For example, if the tenant moves out, the landlord may be prepared to transfer the tenancy into the non-tenant's name.

The non-tenant could consider asking the landlord to make them a tenant to increase their rights. The landlord could either issue you both with a new joint tenancy agreement or have you both on separate tenancy agreements.

The page on your rights if you rent together has more information.

Renting from your partner

If you pay rent to your partner, this will make them your landlord. If you have a part of the home that is exclusively yours (for example, a bedroom or study), this will make you a common law tenant. Your partner can ask you to leave provided they give you proper notice.

If you don't pay rent to your partner, you will be a non-tenant occupier. This means your partner will be within their rights to ask you to leave whenever they like, although they should give you reasonable notice first.

Buying a home together

If you and your partner are buying a home together, you need to decide who will be the legal owner and what financial share each of you will have. Otherwise, it may be difficult to agree on what you are each entitled to if your relationship breaks down. If you own the home jointly, your partner cannot force you to leave without a court order. They would also need your consent to sell, unless they get a court order.

Moving into a home your partner owns

If you move into your partner's home, you will have very few rights unless you are married or in a civil partnership. If you split up, you will not be able to get back any money you put into the home unless you have a written legal agreement set up with a solicitor.

Find a solicitor from the Law Society of Scotland or the Scottish Legal Aid Board.

Get legal help for free or at a lower cost through a law centre or legal aid.

You may want a written legal agreement that states your financial share in the home if:

  • you have put money into the home

  • you have children, or

  • you have given up your own home to move in with your partner

If you are not going to have a financial share in the home then you might agree that your partner will pay for things like household repairs and improvements. You should agree on how much you will pay towards bills and the mortgage.

Find more information on:

Financial issues

You'll need to consider how you and your partner will divide up the financial responsibilities of renting or owning a home. This is something you can include in a cohabitation contract.

Rent, mortgage, bills and council tax

If you both share a joint tenancy or own your home, you will both be jointly and individually responsible for paying the rent or mortgage and council tax.

If only one person rents or owns the home, they alone will be responsible for paying the rent or mortgage. You will both still be liable for paying the council tax and other household bills.

You'll need to decide how to deal with all the household bills and other household expenses. Consider whose names the bills will be in and how you will divide the payments. You may decide to open a joint account to set aside the money for the rent or mortgage and bills.

Benefits

If you are claiming benefits, moving in with your partner may affect the amount of money you receive. You must inform the relevant benefits agencies if you move in with your partner or your partner moves in with you. They will then check whether this affects your benefits. If they find out they have been overpaying you, you will have to pay the money back, and you could even be prosecuted for fraud.

Pensions

If you have a work or personal pension, you should be able to nominate your partner to receive the pension or any 'death in service' benefits should you die. This is a lump sum that is paid out if you die before retirement. Speak to your human resources (HR) department or your pension provider if you would like to do this. You can change this nomination at any time.

Should I make a will?

It's important to decide what will happen to your possessions when you die. Particularly if you're buying a home, getting married, entering a civil partnership, or starting a family. Your possessions, including your home, do not always automatically go to your partner or children when you die.

What happens if we split up?

If you split up, your rights will depend on your situation. The section on relationship breakdown explains this in more detail.

If you need to talk to someone, we’ll do our best to help. Get Help

Last updated: 21 June 2021

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