Separation and Divorce

Separation of Common-Law Couples: Who Stays in a Rented Family Home?


You just broke up with the person you were living with, and you weren’t married. Who can stay in the family home if it was rented? Who has to leave?

The Tenant’s Right to Stay

1. Only One Partner Signed the Lease

After a separation, the partner who signed the lease is allowed to decide whether the other partner can stay or must leave. Of course, the partner who signed the lease must use good judgment. For example, throwing someone out at 3 a.m. on Christmas morning might be considered to be abusive.

2. Both Partners Signed the Lease

Partners who co-signed the lease must decide together who will stay in the apartment and who will leave. As co-tenants, they both have a right to stay in the apartment and can’t force the other one to leave.

Forcing one Partner to Leave for the Sake of Children

If there are children involved, the partner with custody of the children can try to have the other person (either a tenant on the lease or a co-tenant) leave the apartment. She can go to court and argue that it’s in the best interest of the children that she and the children stay in the apartment, at least temporarily.

You can contact a lawyer to learn more about your rights in these situations.

Right to Replace Partner as Tenant

If the partner who signed the lease leaves the apartment, the other partner can replace him as the tenant on the lease in these cases:

  • they lived together for at least six months


  • she sends the landlord a written notice within two months of the breakup indicating that she wants to continue living in the apartment.

Once she becomes the tenant, she must pay the rent.