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Your housing rights when someone you live with dies

When someone you live with dies, your right to stay in your home could be affected. You may be able to take over the tenancy or inherit the home.

If a tenant has died

If you live in a rented home and you had a joint tenancy, your tenancy will continue and your rights do not change. You'll become responsible for the full rent.

If you're not a joint tenant, you still might have the right to take over the tenancy.

Check if you can take over the tenancy

This is called succession, or succeeding the tenancy.

Your succession rights depend on your relationship to the person who has died and the type of tenancy they had.

If they had a private residential tenancy or a Scottish secure tenancy, you have succession rights if either:

  • the tenant was your spouse or civil partner

  • the tenant was your unmarried partner or another family member, and you've lived there for at least 12 months

  • you gave up your home to care for the tenant or someone who lived with them, and you've lived there for at least 12 months

The 12 months only starts from when you told the landlord that you had moved in.

We have further advice on succession of a Scottish secure tenancy.

If they had an assured tenancy or short assured tenancy, you can only take it over if the tenant was your spouse, civil partner or cohabiting partner. It does not matter how long you've lived there.

You usually cannot take over a short Scottish secure tenancy or a common law tenancy.

If you do not have the right to take over the tenancy, you could ask the landlord to give you a new tenancy instead.

When to get advice about your succession rights

You could have problems taking over the tenancy if:

  • you did not tell the landlord in writing when you moved in

  • someone else who lives there is entitled to succeed the tenancy

  • you live in a specially adapted council or housing association home, and you do not need the adaptations

Your rights could also be weaker if the tenancy was already succeeded from a previous tenant who died. The rules depend on the tenancy type:

  • a Scottish secure tenancy can be succeeded twice

  • a private residential tenancy, assured tenancy or short assured tenancy can be succeeded once

If you're being pressured to leave or you're not sure about your rights, get advice from Shelter Scotland.

An adviser can help you negotiate with the landlord and work out your options.

Paying rent if you take over a tenancy

You’ll be responsible for paying the full amount of the rent.

If the person who died had any rent arrears, you will not be responsible for paying these unless you were a joint tenant.

If you’re worried about money, check our advice on housing costs and money help.

If the homeowner or co-owner has died

If you lived with someone in a home that they owned, your rights to the home depend on what the title deeds say and if the homeowner left a will.

If possible, do not move out of the home before getting legal advice.

Check the title deeds

The title deeds say who owns the home. If there’s a mortgage on the home, the mortgage lender will have the title deeds. You can also check title deeds on the Land Register for a small fee.

If you owned the home jointly, the title deeds may have a survivorship destination or survivorship clause. This means that you’ll automatically inherit the other person’s share of the property, and you'll have full rights to stay in the home.

If there's no survivorship destination, or if your name is not on the title deeds, your rights depend on what the owner wrote in their will.

Check the will

If the person left a will, it should say whether the home, or their share of the home, has been left to you.

If you were married or in a civil partnership, you could be entitled to a share of the home even if it’s not been left to you in the will.

If the person did not leave a will

When someone does not leave a will, this is called intestacy.

If you were married or in a civil partnership, you’ll usually automatically have a right to inherit some or all of the home, depending on the value.

If you were living with your partner, but you were not married or in a civil partnership, you can apply to a court to get a share of the home. You must do this within 6 months of your partner’s death. You'll need a solicitor's help.

Problems with inheritance

Inheritance can be complicated, especially if there are other family members involved. Even if you've inherited a share of the home, you may not have the right to keep living there.

Get legal advice as soon as possible if you're unsure about your rights.

Find a solicitor on the Law Society of Scotland

Check if you could get legal help for free or at a lower cost

Get help with bereavement

The Scottish Government has advice on organisations and websites that can help with:

Last updated: 1 February 2024

Housing laws differ between Scotland and England.

This content applies to Scotland only.

Get advice if you're in England