Leaving the Family Home

You may have read in the news recently about Christina and Mark Rotondo of New York who went to court to evict their 30-year old son who was refusing to leave the family home. 

Similar problems are occurring here. 25% of people aged 20-34 are still living at home. So, what happens when a family member is told to leave the family home?

The starting point is that the person who owns the property has the right to decide who occupies it.  However, the law limits an owner’s right to evict people from his/her property in various situations:

  • If the ownership is wholly or partially in somebody’s name, they cannot be forced to leave.  Similarly, if the property is rented, and your name is on the letting agreement then you have the right to continue living there.
  • If you are married or in a civil partnership then you have the legal right to live in your home, even if it is only registered in your partner’s name.  This is known as ‘matrimonial home rights’.  These rights are quite limited, but do include the right to live in the property unless the court issues an Occupation Order requiring you to leave.  It is a good idea to register your home rights with the Land Registry so that your partner cannot mortgage or sell the property without your knowledge and third parties have to respect those rights.  If you are not married / in a civil partnership, and the property is owned by your partner, then he/she can ask you to leave.  The exceptions are where are you can persuade the court that you have experienced domestic violence or have some other form of claim on property (e.g. you contributed towards the cost of its purchase/maintenance).  If so, you may be eligible to get an Occupation Order allowing you to remain. We suggest that if you are living with your partner but you are not married/in a civil partnership, you should consider having a Cohabitation Agreement with them. It is like a pre-nuptial agreement. It is not strictly legally binding but can be a very persuasive when shown to a court as proof of you and your partner’s intentions about your property if you separated.
  • If you are divorcing and are responsible for children under 18 then the court may allow you continue in the family home. This is because the court makes protection of any children involved in a divorce a priority. Protection includes providing the children with a secure home and not disrupting their lives when reasonably possible. For this reason, if you the person responsible for the day-to-day care of the children you are likely to be entitled to remain in the family home.

So under English law the Rotondo’s would also be likely to receive a court order requiring their son to leave. We recommend that to avoid difficult situations like the Rotondo’s faced, adult family members staying in the family for a long time do so under a written understanding.

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