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What can I do if my ex won’t move out after we separate?

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Having to live with your ex in the same property when you have decided to separate can be extremely challenging and, in some circumstances, may not be safe. But what can you do if your ex refuses to move out? This article looks at the issues.

In what circumstances can I force my ex out of our home?

No matter whether you rent or own your home, there are ways to force an abusive partner out of the property if you want to continue living there, even if the home doesn’t belong to you. Your options depend on who has a legal right to live in the property, the status of your relationship and whether you have experienced domestic abuse. The court can make a ruling on who lives in the property via the following orders:

  • An occupation order which can force an abusive person out of their home
  • A transfer of tenancy order which can put the tenancy of a rental property in one person’s name only

If your ex is not violent or abusive, then you may not be able to get them to leave. But this depends on the circumstances of ownership and the status of your relationship.

If you own the home jointly

Whether you are married, in a civil partnership, or are merely cohabiting, if the property is owned jointly between you, then there is an equal right in law that both parties are entitled to live in the home. This means that you can only force them to leave in certain circumstances, such as where domestic abuse is involved.

If one party owns the home

If the home is in one party’s sole name, the other may still be able to stay, even if the owner objects. If the couple is married, the spouse not named as owner still has the right to remain in the home and occupy it under Matrimonial Home Rights legislation. These rights can be registered with the Land Registry which will protect their interest in the property until the divorce is concluded.

Where a couple is not married and only one party owns the home, the other may still have a right to claim against the equity in the property because they have acquired an interest in it. But in most cases of sole ownership, your ex has no right to stay in your property and you can demand that they leave.

If you are both named in the tenancy agreement

If your family home is rented in joint names, then you are both entitled to remain living there, no matter what your marital status is . If one party leaves, then a Notice to Quit can be prepared and the names transferred on the tenancy into one person’s name. Although this means that the sole burden for all related costs falls to the party staying in the property. In the event of one person not being allowed to remove their name from a tenancy, an application can be made to the court for removal.

If only one party is named in the tenancy agreement

Where only one party is named in the tenancy agreement, the other may still have a right to stay there in the short term. But in most cases, they will have to leave.

If you have a council or housing association home

If you live in a housing association or council property, it is possible that the conduct of an abusive partner could have broken the terms of the tenancy agreement. Your landlord might consider their behaviour warrants removing them permanently from the property, particularly if there have been complaints from neighbours and the police have been involved.

Transfer of tenancy orders

If you are joint tenants on a rental property or your ex is the only person named on the tenancy agreement, you can ask the court to transfer it into your sole name. However, it is important to note that this order is not available for assured shorthold tenancies. The court will take all the circumstances of the case into account before making a decision, including:

  • The nature and history of the tenancy
  • The needs and resources of everyone involved
  • Your behaviour as tenants
  • The best interests of any children involved

Ask the court for an occupation order

If your partner is abusive or you are the victim of domestic abuse, you can ask the court to make an occupation order to keep them out of your home even if:

  • They own or rent the home and have a legal right to be there
  • You don’t own or rent the home yourself
  • You have already left the home and want to return

The court will not make an occupation order lightly because it is a serious step to force someone out of their home. You will therefore need to satisfy the court that you and any children involved would suffer significant harm if the order wasn’t made. Although an occupation order can remove your ex from living in the home, it cannot prevent abusive behaviour. In that case, you may also need to apply for a non-molestation order.

If my ex leaves, can I get help to pay for housing?

Extra financial support is available for those who have experienced domestic abuse and need help to pay for housing. Housing benefit and/or universal credit will help cover temporary accommodation and other housing costs and is usually available for up to a year. If you are claiming housing benefit or universal credit, you may also be able to get a discretionary housing payment from your local authority. This is an extra payment if you need further financial support.

Most landlords ask for a deposit and an advance rental payment up front. Your local authority may run a rent deposit scheme which loans you the money in advance, or rent guarantee schemes that cover the deposit.

If you are already claiming benefits, you may be able to get help with the interest on your mortgage payments. This is called support for mortgage interest, but you are required to pay this back with interest when you sell on your home.

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