Women experiencing domestic abuse should be able to stay put in their homes – whilst safely continuing their lives and connections with friends, family, work and education.
Tens of thousands of women and children relocate due to domestic abuse – but for many others, they try to stay put.
However, even if they could safely do this, they are often caught in the trap of a joint tenancy with the perpetrator of the abuse.
Perpetrators may use the joint tenancy as another tool of abuse. They may have originally used coercion to get themselves onto the tenancy, which the woman had in her sole name before. They may threaten to terminate the tenancy and/or continue to maintain control by refusing to remove themselves voluntarily from the tenancy. They may use their name on the tenancy as a means of continuing post-separation abuse – claiming that they could move back into the home. Survivors of abuse may find themselves trapped by the power of the perpetrator threatening to keep/end/keep/end the tenancy – never being free from the control and abuse.
The Government says in its Tackling Domestic Abuse Plan that it has the aim of “bringing victims and survivors more security if the right option for them is remaining in their own home” but there are legal changes urgently needed to make this a reality for women with joint tenancies.
Currently, the legal procedures may be expensive and/or complicated – with survivors often not knowing their options or rights, and finding themselves facing eviction, or being forced to relocate, with all the losses and uncertainties that follow from that.
A real option of staying put is needed.
To provide this, an alternative legal procedure has been proposed – it was raised during the development of the Domestic Abuse Bill; though it was not included by the Government in the Domestic Abuse Act 2021. It would provide a simplified legal mechanism for the transfer of a tenancy in the family court if a survivor of domestic abuse shares a joint secured or social tenancy with the perpetrator. It would recognise the tenancy rights within a joint tenancy, but provide a proportionate response to be able to promote the safety, stability, and housing security of the survivor.
Now it is being proposed again in response to the Government’s consultation on the impacts of joint tenancies on victims of domestic abuse. The consultation is open until 10th May 2022 – asking landlords, lawyers and individuals about what is currently happening, and what the Government should do about it. We’ll have to see how the Government responds this time….
Women fleeing domestic abuse are fleeing a human rights violation: they should be able to stay put, stay as near as they can, or travel as far as they need without any detriment to their lives.
 HM Government (March 2022) ‘Tackling Domestic Abuse Plan’ https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1064427/E02735263_Tackling_Domestic_Abuse_CP_639_Accessible.pdf
 National Group briefing on Joint Tenancies and Survivors of Domestic Abuse (2021) https://www.dahalliance.org.uk/media/11058/domestic-abuse-bill-joint-tenancies-qa.pdf
 National Group response to MHCLG’s New Deal for renting (2019), https://www.dahalliance.org.uk/what-we-do/national-policy-practice-group/our-national-group-responses-to-government-consultations/
 Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (15 February 2022) ‘Consultation on the impacts of joint tenancies on victims of domestic abuse’ https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/consultation-on-the-impacts-of-joint-tenancies-on-victims-of-domestic-abuse