Home > The Legal Process > Becoming Intentionally Homeless: Your Rights

Becoming Intentionally Homeless: Your Rights

By: Lorna Elliott LLB (hons), Barrister - Updated: 21 Sep 2018 |
 
Homeless Intentional Home Spouse

If you walk out of your marriage, and have nowhere to live, are you intentionally homeless? Broadly speaking, it is up to your local authority to prove that you have made yourself intentionally homeless. The council has to make its own enquiries into what happened and in order to prove that you have made yourself intentionally homeless, they have to decide that you have done the following:

  • You did something deliberate, or didn’t do something deliberately, and
  • What you did made you leave your home, and
  • If you hadn’t done (or not doe this) you could have stayed in your home, and
  • In the circumstances, you could reasonably have stayed in your home otherwise.

If some but not all of the four elements above are satisfied, then you are not intentionally homeless in law and the council should give you the benefit of the doubt.

Deliberate Acts or Omissions

This could be one of several things, such as not paying the rent or mortgage when you had enough money to be able to do so, or because you were evicted because of antisocial behaviour; or just because you left accommodation that you could have stayed in if you had wanted to do so. If you were evicted or your home was repossessed because of financial difficulties that you could not avoid, you should not be considered to be intentionally homeless.

Similarly if your partner is responsible for paying the rent or mortgage, and you had no clue that this had happened – you may not be intentionally homeless but your partner could be. If you were evicted as a result of something your child did, as a parent you are generally considered responsible for your child’s actions so this could mean that you are intentionally homeless.

Could You Have Stayed?

This is the key issue for those who have left their homes as a result of the break down of their relationship. You will only be considered intentionally homeless if you left and it was unreasonable for you to do so. This means that if you were being threatened, someone in your household was being threatened (your child, or someone else) or you were suffering violence, you have probably not made yourself intentionally homeless.

Interestingly, a recent court case in the Supreme Court has now ruled that being shouted at by your spouse, if the shouting was sufficient to be perceived as a threat, then you may not be intentionally homeless. In the recent groundbreaking case, the Supreme court ruled that shouting abusively at a husband or wife counts as ‘domestic violence’ and as such can mean that the abusive party can lose their home. In this particular case, the woman had never been physically harmed by her husband, but he had shouted at her, criticized her, and gave her no housekeeping. She was perpetually afraid that her husband would take the children away from her. The court decided that this behaviour was abusive enough to be classed as domestic violence. Needless to say, this ruling has caused quite a lot of controversy amongst lawyers and those working alongside families in social services, amongst others.

The Property Itself

If the state of your property is such as to be seriously affecting your health, you may be unintentionally homeless. This also applies to houses that are of an extremely poor quality in comparison with similar homes in the area, or if you could not afford to live in the property unless you went without other necessities, such as food, heating or electricity.

If you are at risk of losing your home, or if you are considering leaving your home, you should take legal advice without delay. If you are due to be evicted, or you have been told that your house is going to be repossessed, the advice is generally to stay until this happens.

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[Add a Comment]
Im in a very difficult situation, I am currently jobless and I am looking for work but because my benefits stop in December, my wife of just a year and half is wanting me to leave in 2 months. If I leave I have no where to go nor can I continue to find work. We argue daily and now her child knows what's happening, so now I am being blamed for her not doing well at school and to top it off, I am being blamed for her being in debt because I moved in, although I was working. Please help I don't know what to do. I have also wanted to end because I can't see a way out and I don't want to be on the streets.
pompsfan - 21-Sep-18 @ 9:46 AM
Jazzsam - Your Question:
I'm in a very unhappy marriage. We've been married 2 years and have 1 child together. I have 2 from a previous marriage. We own a house together which we both put money into and now has quite a lot of equity but for the past 2 years I've been a stay at home mum while he pays for everything. We argue almost daily and he is aggressive and verbally abusive. He taunts me with comments about my mental health ( I suffered from post natal depression) He tells me I am a terrible mother constantly. I want to leave but financiallybincant see how it is possible. Can I get housing benefit with my situation. Can I force him to sell the house? He will never agree to leave or help me willingly

Our Response:
I am sorry to hear this. You will get benefits to help you financially, if you are a stay-at-home mum. It is always a tricky situation when one person leaves the house and then relies upon the other person to sell it. It generally works out fine if the other parent is willing, but if they prove to be awkward such as agree, but put off potential buyers or try to stall and sale, your only option would be then to take the matter to court which becomes costly. Mediation is a good way of trying to arrange who will live where once a relationship ends. The link here will also explain more. However, if the matter does go to court the preference is usually give to the parent who is the day-to-day carer of the children to remain in the family home. I hope this helps.
DivorceResource - 10-Sep-18 @ 10:20 AM
I'm in a very unhappy marriage. We've been married 2 years and have 1 child together. I have 2 from a previous marriage. We own a house together which we both put money intoand now has quite a lot of equity but for the past 2 years I've been a stay at home mum while he pays for everything. We argue almost daily and he is aggressive and verbally abusive. He taunts me with comments about my mental health ( I suffered from post natal depression) He tells me I am a terrible mother constantly. I want to leave but financiallybincant see how it is possible. Can I get housing benefit with my situation. Can I force him to sell the house?He will never agree to leave or help me willingly
Jazzsam - 9-Sep-18 @ 2:54 AM
Sarah - Your Question:
Have been married for 10 years I have a 14 year old daughter my husband is not her biological father I live in the house he purchased before we met although I have contributed to the bills for the 12 years I have lived there I no longer wish to be in a relationship with my husbands but do not wish to make myself and my daughter homeless what our my rights regarding were I live can I make him leave his house or can I ask him to help me financially to help me fine somewhere else to live so he can stay on his home

Our Response:
If you have been married 10 years, then you will have some financial rights. So, you will have less rights if your child is not biologically his (in terms of remaining in the house). You would have to seek legal advice regarding this matter. It may be that you come to a financial agreement that he gives you money to help set you up independently. However, at this point it is very much theoretical as much depends upon the amount of equity in the house and in your joint savings etc. If you can make a joint financial arrangement that you both agree with either mutually through mediation or a solicitor, then this will serve you better and is less costly than taking the matter to court.
DivorceResource - 2-Aug-18 @ 3:08 PM
Have been married for 10 years I have a 14 year old daughter my husband is not her biological father I live in the house he purchased before we met although I have contributed to the bills for the 12 years I have lived there I no longer wish to be in a relationship with my husbands but do not wish to make myself and my daughter homeless what our my rights regarding were I live can I make him leave his house or can I ask him to help me financially to help me fine somewhere else to live so he can stay on his home
Sarah - 1-Aug-18 @ 10:39 PM
@slackDesigns - what about a house-share, or a room in someone's house? If you are working could you afford to do that? You can get some cheap house shares that don't have massive deposits prior to moving in. If you move out, then unless you have kids of your own with your partner you wouldn't have to pay child maintenance and you won't have to give your partner any money. Also, if you are not on the tenancy agreement then it is better for you as at least you are under no financial obligation to keep the agreement up. If you are working, surely, you can save up or borrow £600 - £1,000 or so from your bank, enough for a month's rent and a deposit.
jessH - 20-Feb-18 @ 12:06 PM
I cant afford to rent private and I tried going back on the housing list but I was told I cant because I am suitably housed. I dont have any family or friends who can or will help me both my parents have passed away. If I walk out I would be on the streets then I would most probably lose my job then I would be homeless I have told my partner loads of times how I feel but she just ignores me. She lets her 17 year old daughter talk to me like I'm a piece of dirt.And her daughter is bone lazy doesnt lift a finger to help. I have had enough I really wish I had stayed living on my own.
slackDesigns - 19-Feb-18 @ 3:07 AM
Hello, I moved in with my partner about 4 years ago, the house is in her only and she is the tenant Aspire Housing said I could move in with her but never put me on the tenancy. I have decided that living with my partner as not really worked out she is lazy and basically lives off my wages as she dont work and nobody will give her a job. When we were courting things were good but since we have been living together she has changed. I want to go back living on my own but I have nowhere to go I have no money as my partner uses my wages to pay all the bills. I am scared I dont want end up on the streets and I dont know what to do.
slackDesigns - 19-Feb-18 @ 2:59 AM
Hi I live in a 3 bed rented property with my daughter who is 19 and my husband of 20 years.I pay all the bills to which are in my name.I want to divorce my husband as has become unbearable to live with as he is a abusive alcoholic and I really cant take anymore. But my housing association because the property is in joint tenancy is telling me that If I leave my property I am making myself intentionally homeless. I have very little income coming in and though i have searched to rent a smaller property for myself i cannot afford the fees that need to be put down as a down-payment.I have no family that I can turn too and I am depressed to the point that last week I tried to take my own life I dont know who to turn to for help.
ej1975 - 23-Nov-17 @ 6:32 PM
Juls - Your Question:
My husband wants me to leave and for us to divorce after 4 years of marriage he owns everything and all bills are in his name he says I can have a penny but I dont have much money to just leave a find some were to live were do I stand

Our Response:
With regards to your rights, much depends upon whether your husband owned the property etc pre-marriage. If he did, then it is likely he will be allowed to remain in the property, as due to your short marriage it would be considered a pre-marital asset. However, much depends upon whether you have children etc as this would give you more of a claim. If you are married, you do have rights as theoretically all assets are considered jointly owned. You can see what your rights are via the CAB link here . Your ex cannot force you out of your home and if he is trying to, you may wish to seek legal advice. If you cannot afford legal advice, the Citizens Advice Bureau may be able to help. Just because you have not contributed financially, it does not mean you have to leave the marriage empty handed.
DivorceResource - 13-Oct-17 @ 2:15 PM
My husband wants me to leave and for us to divorce after 4 years of marriage he owns everything and all bills are in his name he says i can have a penny but i dont have much money to just leave a find some were to live were do i stand
Juls - 6-Oct-17 @ 4:40 PM
Gabs - Your Question:
My renewal for FLR FP has been with UKVI for past 10 mths and unemployed for this period. My wife of 10years due to pressure from unable to pay for all the bills now believes am the cause of the family's hard ship and has thrown me out since my name is not on the council tenancy. Council can't help me until decision of my application comes. Currently sleeping at bus stops and parks at nights. We have three children at the ages 9, 8 and 6.Where can I obtain help.

Our Response:
I'm afraid I can only direct you to the gov.uk link here and/or via the Shelter link here which will tell you what help you can get and/or allow you to speak to someone directly who can help you further.
DivorceResource - 21-Aug-17 @ 11:38 AM
My renewal for FLR FP has been with UKVI for past 10 mths and unemployed for this period. My wife of 10years due to pressure from unable to pay for all the bills now believes am the cause of the family's hard ship and has thrown me out since my name is not on the council tenancy.Council can't help me until decision of my application comes. Currently sleeping at bus stops and parks at nights. We have three children at the ages 9, 8 and 6. Where can I obtain help...
Gabs - 19-Aug-17 @ 6:04 PM
Ben - Your Question:
My partner and I have split after she cheated on me. We have two children ages 3 and 1. As I work full time we have decided it makes sense for her to stay in our renamed flat as she has the majority if the time with the kids. I will have to be sleeping on a friends floor, for a while at least. Is this me making myself intentionally homeless? And would I even be able to get help from the council?

Our Response:
Much depends on your eligibility and your level of need as determined by the local council (bearing in mind the more vulnerable groups in society will be given priority and there is always a council property waiting list). You can see more via the gov.uk link here. If you are working full-time, then you will not be on the top of the priority list and will more than likely be expected to be able to find your own accommodation.
DivorceResource - 4-Jul-17 @ 11:25 AM
My partner and i have split after she cheated on me. We have two children ages 3 and 1. As i work full time we have decided it makes sense for her to stay in our renamed flat as she has the majority if the time with the kids. I will have to be sleeping on a friends floor, for a while at least. Is this me making myself intentionally homeless? And would i even be able to get help from the council?
Ben - 3-Jul-17 @ 4:48 PM
Leon- Your Question:
Advice, I have split up with my ex for three years, we have three children twin girls aged 16 and a boy of 14. I want to get my share of the house so I can live a stable life as I now have a 15 month old son and another child on the way.what can be done

Our Response:
Your question is difficult to advise on as you don't say whether your ex owns the house and what your financial input into the house has been. Therefore, you would have to seek legal advice.
DivorceResource - 5-Oct-16 @ 10:55 AM
Advice, I have split up with my ex for three years, we have three children twin girls aged 16 and a boy of 14. I want to get my share of the house so i can live a stable life as I now have a 15 month old son and another child on the way. what can be done
Leon - 4-Oct-16 @ 9:58 AM
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