If you’re in the midst of a separation or recently separated, and suddenly need to relocate urgently, the process of finding a new place to call home can feel overwhelming. Navigating the world of rental laws, while finding new accommodation can be a scary and daunting task.
This article will guide you through your rights in the wake of a separation and provide practical tips to secure new accommodation as soon as possible.
Your rights after a separation
When it comes to your rights after a separation in family law, it’s important to know where you stand when it comes to living arrangements.
If you and your ex-partner jointly own or rent your home, both of you have a legal right to live there. Unless there’s a Court Order or an agreement saying otherwise, you can continue residing in the family home. Even if you’re not officially on the lease, you may still have the right to stay in the rental property if you can prove you’ve been living there for a significant amount of time or have been paying rent. It doesn’t matter whose name is on the title to the house, or lease/rental documents. If you were in a de facto relationship or marriage, you generally have the right to keep living in the home. It’s important to remember that you can only be forcibly removed from the shared home if there is a Court-issued Occupancy, Residency, or Ouster Order.
Be aware that some protection orders may have conditions that prevent you from returning to live in the home, as violating those conditions would breach the order. Understanding all this is crucial to making informed decisions about your living situation after a separation.
Is it OK to live in the same house after separation?
Living in the same house after separation is a matter that depends on individual circumstances, and there are no hard and fast rules about whether it’s okay. It all boils down to whether you and your ex-partner can safely live separated under one roof.
In Australia, there is no legal concept of “legal separation”. However, when it’s not safe for both parties to reside together, one of them may seek a protection order due to concerns of family violence. In such cases, the Order may prevent the person against whom the order has been issued to continue living in the same house as the protected person. On the other hand, it may not. If so, careful consideration should be taken by the person continuing to reside in the residence given the very serious consequences of family violence orders being breached and/or children being exposed to the conduct of a parent that may be in breach of such an order.
When it is safe for both parties to live together while separated, there may be practical reasons for doing so, such as financial considerations or difficulties in finding alternative housing.
The impact on any children from the relationship should also be taken into account, and parents should prioritise their children’s best interests when making decisions about living arrangements. When ex-partners choose to live separately under the same roof, it is important to establish clear boundaries and adjust expectations around finances, and minimise exposing children to conflict between parents.
Ultimately, the decision to live in the same house after separation should be based on what works best for everyone involved, considering safety, practicality, and the well-being of any children.
What if your partner was the sole breadwinner?
If your partner was the sole breadwinner and the sole registered owner of the home or the named tenant on the lease agreement, they have the right to sell the house or end the lease. In such cases, it’s best to seek legal advice to understand your rights and options. Even if they take action to end the lease, it remains possible for you to take on a new lease if you have the means. You should contact the agent or landlord.
If you were financially dependent on your partner, you may be entitled to receive spousal maintenance. Both ex-spouses have a legal responsibility to support and maintain themselves based on their own income.
If you are unable to support yourself adequately after separation and your ex-partner has the financial means to provide financial support, they may be required to pay you spousal maintenance.
Factors considered in determining whether spousal maintenance is payable include the income, property, and financial resources of each party, their age, health, and the standard of living during the relationship. The earning capacity of each person and relevant factors like career sacrifices for child-rearing are also taken into account. Spousal maintenance is typically temporary, aimed at helping the recipient become financially self-sufficient. However, in cases of illness or disability preventing a person from having gainful employment, longer-term spousal maintenance may be awarded.
If you have children under 18, you can apply for a child support assessment or privately arrange child support payments with your ex-partner. Child support is intended to contribute to the costs of raising a child, including accommodation, food, education, and more. Child support is different to spousal maintenance.
Reaching an agreement vs going to court
Property settlement is a crucial step in moving forward after the breakdown of a de facto relationship or marriage, as it involves dividing assets, liabilities, superannuation, and financial resources to promote financial independence for both parties.
When it comes to settlement, you have several choices: reaching an agreement, asking the Court to decide, or doing nothing. Applying to the Court can be costly, stressful, and time-consuming. It is generally recommended that both parties first try to negotiate and reach a fair division of property themselves. This can be formalised through a Binding Financial Agreement or Consent Orders (which do not require a court appearance).
Doing nothing is generally discouraged as it can lead to unforeseen consequences and hardships in the future. Without formalising a property settlement, there is uncertainty regarding whether your ex-partner might seek a settlement through the Court later on, claiming that the lack of a settlement has caused them or a child of the relationship hardship. It is wise to consider these factors when deciding whether to pursue an agreement or seek court intervention for property settlement. Other factors that may impact your decision to formalise your Agreement so that it is enforceable under the Family Law Act (Cth) 1975 include the avoidance of paying stamp duty if a home is transferred and/or refinanced into one person’s name.
Options to consider when moving out
When it comes to moving out after a separation, make sure to consider all your options. If you need a temporary living arrangement, you could move in with family or friends until you find a more permanent solution.
Another option is to reach out to housing support services like Housing Victoria (or any other state social housing department) who can provide assistance in finding suitable housing.
Downsizing can also be an option to consider, as it might make your search for a new place more manageable. If you are open to it, moving in with housemates can be a way to share costs and have some company. Keep an eye out for short-term rental options, such as community housing vacancies. If your budget allows, you could also consider renting a place on your own.
If independent accommodation is financially challenging, exploring spousal maintenance options to help cover the costs might be worth considering.
Remember, there are various paths to explore, so be sure to find the solution that best suits your needs and circumstances.
Setting yourself up to move out
Moving out after a separation can feel like a big task, but with a little planning and support, you’ll be well-prepared.
Start by getting organised and making a comprehensive checklist of everything that needs to be done, from finding a new place to arranging for utilities to be switched over. Having a plan in place can make the process feel more manageable.
Next, take inventory of your belongings and decide what to keep, sell, donate, or discard. This will help streamline the moving process and reduce overwhelm. It’s also a good idea to start packing early, focusing on non-essential items first. This way, you won’t feel rushed when moving day arrives. If your budget allows, consider hiring a removalist to assist with the move or reach out to friends who can lend a hand.
Taking care of legal and financial arrangements is also crucial, especially if you’re separating from a spouse or partner. Consult a family lawyer for advice on property settlements, child custody, and spousal maintenance.
Additionally, don’t underestimate the emotional impact of moving out. Seek support from loved ones or consider reaching out to a professional counsellor if you need someone to talk to.
Finally, set financial goals, create a budget, and assess your regular expenses to ensure you’re financially prepared for this transition.
You don’t have to navigate this process alone – there are resources and people ready to help you every step of the way. Local and government support services can provide assistance, such as crisis housing and crisis payments.
How to find a new rental
When it comes to finding a new rental, there are a few steps you can take to make the process smoother.
First, determine your budget by figuring out how much you can comfortably spend on rent each month. This will help you narrow down your options and focus on properties within your price range.
Next, create a list of must-haves, such as the number of bedrooms, location, transportation access, parking, and pet policies.
Once you have your criteria in mind, start your search online using popular platforms like realestate.com.au, Domain, or Rent.com.au. When you find properties that catch your interest, attend inspections to get a feel for the space and see if it meets your needs. If you find a rental you like, submit a rental application that includes personal and financial information, along with references. It is handy to have your rental application already completed at the time of inspection if there is a lot of interest in the property by others. If your application is approved, you’ll need to sign a lease agreement, so be sure to read it carefully and understand the terms and conditions before signing.
Government Assistance & Centrelink
Check your eligibility for Centrelink assistance. Centrelink can provide regular payments to help with rental expenses or crisis payments to assist you at certain times. This is worth exploring if you’re in need of urgent or crucial support for your housing costs.
How do I find where to live after a separation?
If you are looking for a new place to live after a separation, there are several steps you can take to help you find the right home:
- Determine your budget: before you start your search, it’s important to determine how much you can afford to spend on rent or a mortgage. This will help you narrow down your options and ensure that you are looking at properties that are within your budget.
- Make a list of must-haves: think about the features and amenities that are important to you in a new home. This might include things like the number of bedrooms, location, access to public transportation, parking, and pet policies.
- Consider your lifestyle: think about your lifestyle and what type of home will best suit your needs. For example, if you have children, you might be looking for a family-friendly neighbourhood with good schools.
- Start your search online: there are many websites and apps that can help you find a new home. Popular options in Australia include realestate.com.au, Domain, and RealEstateView.
- Work with a real estate agent: consider working with a real estate or rental agent who can help you find properties that meet your criteria and guide you through the home buying or rental process.
- Attend inspections: once you have found some properties that you are interested in, attend inspections to get a better sense of the space and whether it will meet your needs.
- Apply for the rental or mortgage: if you find a property that you like, you will need to submit a rental application or if purchasing, most likely also apply for a mortgage. This typically involves providing personal and financial information, as well as references.
- Sign a lease or purchase contract: if your application is approved, you will need to sign a lease agreement for a rental property or a purchase contract if you are buying a home. Read the agreement carefully and make sure you understand all of the terms and conditions before you sign.
Is it better to rent via a real estate agent or direct from an owner?
There are advantages and disadvantages to both renting through a real estate agent and renting directly from an owner.
Renting through a real estate agent may have the following advantages:
- Professional management: real estate agents are experienced in managing rental properties and can provide guidance and support throughout the rental process.
- Wider range of properties: real estate agents have access to a wider range of rental properties, which can make it easier to find a suitable rental.
- Legal protection: renting through a licensed real estate agent provides some legal protection for tenants, as the agent is required to comply with relevant state or territory tenancy laws, particularly when it comes to the lodgement of bonds.
Renting through a real estate agent may have the following disadvantages:
- Additional fees: real estate agents may charge additional fees, such as an application fee, bond, or administrative fee.
- More stringent application process: real estate agents may have a more rigorous application process, which could include a credit check or reference checks.
- Limited flexibility: real estate agents may have strict policies regarding rental payments, lease terms, and other rental conditions.
Renting directly from an owner may have the following advantages:
- Potentially lower fees: renting directly from an owner may result in lower fees, as there may be no agent commission or administrative fees.
- More flexibility: owners may be more flexible with lease terms, rental payments, and other rental conditions.
- Personal relationship: renting directly from an owner may allow for a more personal relationship, which could lead to a more positive rental experience.
Renting directly from an owner may have the following disadvantages:
- Limited availability: it may be more difficult to find rental properties when renting directly from an owner, as they may only have one or a few properties available.
- Lack of professional management: owners may not have the same level of experience or resources as a real estate agent, which could lead to a less professional rental experience.
- Limited legal protection: renting directly from an owner may provide less legal protection for tenants, as they may not be bound by the same licensing or regulatory requirements as agents.
How do I find affordable housing vacancies?
Finding affordable housing vacancies can be a challenge, but here are some tips that may help:
- Check government websites: many governments provide affordable housing programs and may have listings of available properties on their websites. Check your local government’s website for information on affordable housing programs and vacancy listings.
- Contact community organisations: non-profit organisations, housing co-operatives, and community groups as they may have information on affordable housing vacancies in your area. Contact them and inquire about any available properties.
- Search online: websites such as Gumtree, and Facebook Marketplace may have listings of affordable housing vacancies. You can also try searching on dedicated affordable housing websites.
- Visit state, regional and/or local housing authority offices: these authorities may have information on affordable housing vacancies in your area. Visit their offices or contact them to inquire about available properties.
- Attend open houses: attend open houses and apartment viewings in your area to find out about available affordable housing. Be sure to bring all necessary documentation, such as proof of income and references, to make the application process easier.
- Network: tell your friends, family, and colleagues that you are looking for affordable housing. They may know of available properties or be able to refer you to someone who does.
Remember that affordable housing vacancies can be in high demand, so it’s important to act fast when you find an available property that meets your needs. Be prepared to provide all necessary documentation and be flexible with your search criteria to increase your chances of finding a suitable affordable housing option.