07 Jun 2022

Joint tenancies and domestic abuse

Many of us work in the housing sector because we believe in everyone’s right to a safe, affordable, and stable home. Yet, for survivors of domestic abuse, including their children, home is often the most dangerous place. Domestic abuse continues to be the main cause of homelessness amongst women, often leading to a lifetime of insecure and unaffordable housing.

For far too long, we’ve placed the responsibility on survivors of domestic abuse to become homeless as the only means to become safe. And for many survivors, leaving is necessary, and lifesaving refuges are vital. However, many other survivors would choose to stay in their homes if they were supported to do so, yet sadly, are never given that choice.

It’s time to give survivors the viable choice to stay safely in their home, and to place the responsibility of leaving on the person(s) causing harm.

As set out in Domestic Abuse Housing Alliance (DAHA) and Women's Aid for England's (WAFE) briefing on joint tenancies and domestic abuse, survivors who share a joint tenancy with their abuser face significant legal, practical, and economic barriers to staying safely within their home. And unsurprisingly, many survivors on a joint tenancy with their abuser found these difficulties so insurmountable that their only real ‘option’ was to give up their tenancy and their home and bear the burden of becoming homeless.

DAHA and WAFE have spent the last three years working alongside the DAHA-led National Housing and Domestic Abuse Policy and Practice Group, to address this issue by campaigning for the government to recognise the impact of joint tenancies on survivors of domestic abuse and provide survivors with improved legal options to maintain their home.

We were grateful when in February 2022, the government published a three-month consultation on the impact of joint tenancies on survivors of domestic abuse. DAHA and WAFE consulted with survivors, front-line specialist domestic abuse services, legal professionals, and housing providers, and submitted our response which brings together our partners’ (including the National Housing Federation) expertise on this issue and outlines our proposal for a simplified legal solution that would make it easier for a survivor to apply directly to the County Court for a court order to remove a perpetrator from a joint secured or assured social tenancy. Crucially, this proposed legal solution builds on the changes made through the Domestic Abuse Act 2021, which introduces Domestic Abuse Protection Orders, eventually replacing Occupation Orders, which will make it easier to have a perpetrator temporarily removed from a home shared with a survivor.

We look forward to the government’s consultation response this summer, which we hope will define a legal solution to make it easier for survivors to have the choice to remain safely within their home, and to place the responsibility of leaving rightfully on the person(s) causing harm.

Written by Deidre Cartwright

Deidre Cartwright is a senior housing manager at Standing Together Against Domestic Abuse. Deidre works with the Domestic Abuse Housing Alliance (DAHA), Women’s Aid Federation for England (WAFE), and the National Housing & Domestic Abuse Policy and Practice Group, to campaign for better legal options for survivors of domestic abuse who share a joint tenancy with perpetrators of domestic abuse.

Note on language

The word ‘survivor’ is used to refer to individuals who are experiencing or have experienced domestic abuse. The words ‘abuser’ or ‘perpetrator’ are used to refer to the individual(s) choosing to use harmful behaviours and actions towards the ‘survivor’ of domestic abuse, which includes children.