Relationship breakdowns: the ‘absent’ or ‘unnamed’ tenant

Devonshires’ Housing Management Department is often approached for advice when a landlord becomes aware that the relationship between two tenants sharing a property has broken down.

While social housing providers may be wary of intervening in private situations, there are occasions where it would be in a landlord’s interest to become involved, such as where:

1. the sole tenant moves out of the property, leaving an individual in the home who is not named on the tenancy; or

2. one of two joint tenants moves out of the property, leaving the other joint tenant in the home alone.

Transfers of tenancies under the Family Law Act 1996

Social landlords do not have the power simply to transfer the tenancy into the name of the person in occupation: such a transfer would need to be consensual and executed by way of a deed of assignment. This is not ideal for landlords given the difficulties associated with engaging a departed tenant or where the breakdown is acrimonious.

The landlord could encourage the remaining tenant to serve a tenant’s notice to quit (sometimes known as a ‘McGrady notice’) to end the joint tenancy and allowing a new joint tenancy to be granted. However, there is a risk that the notice could be subsequently challenged by the departed tenant if they return. In these situations it can be advisable to recommend that the tenant has recourse to the Family Court. Under the provisions of the Family Law Act 1996, the Court has the power either to transfer a joint tenancy into the sole name of one tenant or transfer a tenancy from the sole name of one party into the sole name of the other.

An application to transfer a tenancy can be made in the name of the remaining occupier if they are a joint tenant or the tenant’s former spouse, civil partner or cohabitee (and the property was the family home). Such an application should be made promptly in order to minimise the risk of the departing tenant first serving a Notice to Quit and terminating the tenancy.

Significantly, the landlord will be served with notice of any application to transfer a tenancy and given a chance to make representations during the course of proceedings. This is a fantastic opportunity for the landlord to advise the Court whether or not it supports the transfer of the tenancy and ultimately influence the Court’s final decision.

By virtue of an Order for the transfer of a tenancy under the Family Law Act 1996, the remaining occupier will become the sole tenant of the property and will adopt all of the rights and responsibilities under the tenancy agreement.

For more information, please contact:

Eileen Macqueen, Solicitor

0207 880 4210


The latest news from Devonshires, sent to you direct.

Join our mailing list and find out what we’re up to and what we think about recent events and future possibilities.

Join our Mailing List