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In the UK both partners in a marriage or a civil partnership have matrimonial home rights when it comes to living in a house together.
In this guide you'll learn all about your home rights, including:
- What are marital home rights?
- How can you register for them?
- Why is knowing about your marital rights important for your well-being?
And much more.
Let's dive in...
What Are Matrimonial Home Rights?
Matrimonial home rights apply to both marriages and civil partnerships.
The UK law states that, after marriage, if one spouse has the family house in their name and the other does not - the spouse with no legal ownership of the property still has home rights.
These home rights <bloglink>include:<bloglink>
- The right to stay at the matrimonial property in case of divorce or separation.
- The right to not be evicted or excluded from staying at the property, except by a court order.
- A right to return to the property, if your spouse has already improperly evicted you.
- A right to be told about any mortgage repossession that might happen at the property.
In simpler terms this means that in case of a divorce, if you do not have ownership of the matrimonial home your partner cannot simply override your home rights without a court order.
What Is An Occupation Order?
According to the <bloglink>Family Law Act 1996<bloglink>, the court can issue an <bloglink>occupation order<bloglink> in the short term that specifies who is or is not allowed to dwell at the property. Basically, occupation orders are directives issued by the courts to uphold, define, or limit rights to live at a shared marital property.
However, keep in mind that these orders are merely temporary fixes and have no bearing on how the property is handled during the <bloglink>ultimate settlement of the divorce<bloglink>.
Why Is It Important For You To Register Your Matrimonial Home Rights?
The house that spouses, partners, and their children live in is perhaps the most valuable asset of the marriage or partnership. When a marriage ends, panic often ensues if all of the property is held in the sole name of one of the partners.
This is why it’s important to register your matrimonial rights; amongst other thing, registration can guarantee the right of residence to the partner who doesn’t have legal ownership of the property.
One common problem that happens at the end of a marriage is when the property-owning spouse wants to put up the property for sale, sometimes against the wishes of the other partner. Without the protection of registered home rights, the non-owner spouse could face being evicted against their will.
When you register your matrimonial home rights, the rights are safeguarded on an official register and notified to both partners. After registration, the partner who is the legal owner of a property is forbidden from evicting the non-owning party in order to sell, transfer or re-mortgage the property.
(Note: While the owning spouse can still sell the property, they cannot evict you to do so, making any such sale very unattractive to a potential buyer).
The purpose of matrimonial home rights is to stop the owner spouse from removing the non-owner spouse from their marital home. After separation, the non-owner spouse can continue to live in the home until the assets have been divided as part of the divorce settlement.
This is why it's best to <bloglink>contact a lawyer<bloglink> to get a Home Rights Notice posted on the property if you are going through a separation and are the non-owner spouse. This application should be approved as long as the parties are lawfully married and the spouse is using or intends to use the property as their principal residence.
What’s The Procedure For Registering A Home Rights Notice?
The procedure itself very straightforward. You start by submitting an application to HM Land Registry. Then, once your application is processed the Home Rights Notice is officially added to the property register, which protects the applicant's rights over property. Usually this means allowing the spouse who does not own the property to live there for the life of the marriage, if not longer.
When marital home rights are unregistered, the property-owner spouse can sell or mortgage the house without informing you and/or they could evict you from the property.
Registered Vs Unregistered Property: How Does It Impact Your Marital Home Rights?
The procedure for registering your matrimonial home rights is simple and easy for a registered property. But before you register your home rights, you need to find out if the property itself is indeed registered with the Land Registry. If your property is not registered with the Land Registry (which is quite rare these days), then the process is different and a bit more complicated that that for a registered property.
But how can you verify the registration of the property? Well, examining the official documents for the family house is a good start.
For further information on registered and unregistered property, please consult the table below:
How Can You Remove A Matrimonial Home Rights Notice?
Home Rights arise because of your marriage, and so usually end upon your <bloglink>divorce.<bloglink> Once your decree absolute is granted (or final order in the case of a civil partnership) the Home Rights Notice will cease to exist once HM Land Registry have been informed of the divorce.
There are a few other ways the Home Rights notice can be brought to an end, which are:
- Either spouse dies and their death certificate is presented to the Land Registry.
- The notice of the matrimonial home rights wasn’t properly registered in the first place.
- The non-owner provides a written statement agreeing to give up their rights (this often occurs after you've agreed an out-of-court divorce settlement).
- Via a Court ordering removal, because they find the non-owner has abused their home rights in some way (for example by acting in an <bloglink>abusive manner<bloglink>).
When Is The Notice of Matrimonial Home Rights Not Properly Registered?
The notice of matrimonial home rights is considered to be improperly registered when it’s posted against a home that isn’t currently being used or was never used as a marital residence. Matrimonial home rights of a party are contingent upon the partner’s intention to continue living or returning to the property.
What Form Do I Need To Cancel Matrimonial Home Rights?
If you've reached agreement with your spouse on how to share the marital assets, it's likely you'll want to remove the home rights notice so that the property can be sold.
Doing so is a simple matter of completing and submitting the form <bloglink>HR4<bloglink> to the Land Registry for a registered property. For unregistered properties, you will need to fill out a <bloglink>H13<bloglink> form and submit it to the Land Charges Department.
What If You Want to Extend Your Matrimonial Home Rights?
It's possible for the the non-owner spouse to still reside in the family home, even after divorce, if the court issues a continuation order.
This can occur when your divorce has been finalised and you are no longer married, but your financial settlement has yet to be concluded. This happens more commonly than you might expect, as it is the financial element of separation that is often the most contentions and can cause delays. If the court grants a a continuation order the home rights can be extended until the divorce settlement is finalised, either via court proceedings of via <bloglink>divorce mediation.<bloglink>
To apply for a continuation order you're required to renew your home rights- It won't happen automatically. Again, the relevant forms are different for registered and unregistered property.
For registered property, you can renew your marital home rights by filling out form <bloglink>HR2<bloglink> and sending it to the Land Registry. For the latest processing fee, contact the Land Registry.
For unregistered property, you are required to complete <bloglink>K8<bloglink> and send it to the Large Charges Department.
Your ex-spouse may request the cancellation of the home rights after the date of your <bloglink>decree absolute<bloglink> or final order. Therefore, as the date of your decree absolute/final order approaches, it is crucial to consider whether you might wish to apply for renewal.
Marital Home Rights: FAQ
Can you register your home rights for more than one property?
No. You can only register your marital home rights against your family home. The family home is the main property you and your partner lived in or intended to live in during your marriage. It can entail a house, a caravan, a houseboat, a flat, or any other place you lived together as a family, but it can't be at more than one property.
Can you transfer your home rights from one property to another?
Yes. You can transfer your home rights by contacting the Land Registry. Keep in mind that you can only register matrimonial home rights against one land or property at one time. In case of transfer, the home rights for the first property will end.
What happens in case both partners own the property together?
That’s great news: your family home can not be sold without your consent. In this case, you are not required to register your home rights as you are already an joint owner of the property.
However, if you are not sure about your joint ownership, you can always check by looking at official copies of the property register. This is different for registered and unregistered land as stated above, and you should contact the Land Registry to determine whether or not your property is registered.
Can a mortgage provider sell the property if you have a home rights notice in place?
If the homeowner fails to make any mortgage payments or interest instalments, the mortgage provider may still seek a possession order entitling them to sell the family property, notwithstanding the presence of a home rights notice.
However, if a home right notice is in place, it will be necessary for the bank or lender to inform you of their plans and provide notice of any court actions they and the owning spouse may be involved in. At that point, you can ask the court to join you in the case as a second defendant with the spouse who owns the property. However, in order to prevent the sale it is possible you may need to make payments towards the mortgage, in place of the owning spouse.