Use the tabs below to find information and support regarding your rights.

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Housing

You have the right to live in safety and to feel secure in your own home. You also have a right to information and advice from your local council to find out about your housing options and to stop you from becoming homeless.

Staying in your home:

You have rights to stay in your own home and have an abusive partner removed. Your rights to do so will depend on whether you and/or your partner have occupancy rights.

If you are married or in a civil partnership, you have an automatic right to stay in your home (occupancy rights) whether the house is in your name, your partner’s name or joint names. This means your partner does not have the right to put you out or to refuse you entry to your home. It also means that he can’t sell it or give up or transfer the tenancy unless you agree in writing. (Get legal advice before making this decision).

If you are not married or in a civil partnership, you only have automatic occupancy rights if you are the sole or joint owner or tenant of your home.

  • If you are the sole owner or tenant of your home, your partner has no legal right to stay there. You do not need a court order to make him leave. You can change the locks when your partner is out and refuse to let him in. If your partner is in the house and refuses to leave, you may be able to ask the police to remove him or you can apply to the court for an ejection order.
  • If you are not the sole or joint owner or tenant, then you do not have automatic occupancy rights. But you do have the right to go to court to get occupancy rights granted to you for six months at a time. Once you have occupancy rights, you can stay in the house and apply for an exclusion order to keep him from the home.

Having an abusive partner removed:

You can use the law to have an abusive partner removed from the house and stay away from you. If you have occupancy rights, you can apply to the court for an exclusion order and interdict to remove his right to stay in the house and to make him stay away. If he has left, you can apply for an interdict or a non-harassment order to keep him away.

Transfer of tenancy:

If your partner leaves and your rented house is in his name or joint names, you can get it put into your name only (transfer of tenancy).  A transfer of tenancy means that your landlord ends your partner’s tenancy and then gives you a new one in your name only. You need to ask for this by writing to your landlord. Your partner will have to consent to this transfer and if he does not, you will have to go to court to get the tenancy transferred. If your landlord is the council or a housing association they cannot ‘reasonably’ refuse.

If your partner rents from a private landlord or you have a joint tenancy from a private landlord you need to check the terms of the tenancy agreement to find out if you can ask the landlord to transfer the tenancy.

You will need a solicitor to help you obtain occupancy rights or an exclusion order your local Women’s Aid group may have a list of solicitors in your area who are experienced in this area of the law. The Scottish Women’s Rights Centre also provide free legal information and advice to women affected by violence or abuse.

Leaving your home – your right to housing:

If you have to leave your home because of domestic abuse, you have a right to temporary accommodation and to permanent housing from your local council. You can also move to another council area if it is not safe for you to stay in your own area. You don’t have to be roofless to be treated as homeless, you can moved in with family or friends, be living in a refuge, or other temporary arrangement and make a homeless application.

The council has a duty to provide you with temporary housing while they assess your homeless application. Temporary accommodation is provided in furnished flats, hostels and for short periods of time can be provided in bed and breakfast accommodation. Once your homeless application has been accepted the council have a duty to provide you with temporary housing until they can offer you a suitable permanent home. This may be provided by the council, housing association or with a private landlord.

Scotland’s Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline, Local Women’s Aid groups, Shelter or Citizens Advice Bureaus can help you if you have need advice on your housing rights and options.

Help with paying rent:

Housing Benefit is paid by the council to help people on low incomes, or receiving welfare benefits pay for their rent, for council and housing association properties. If you rent from a private landlord you can claim Local Housing Allowance.

Housing benefit can be paid for two homes if you’ve left your home because of domestic abuse. You can get housing benefit on your home and in your temporary housing. If you are away from your home temporarily (and you intend to go back) you can get it for up to 52 weeks.

Money Issues

Many women worry about whether they’ll have enough money to live on if they separate from their partner. It might be that he has controlled all of the household finances and you aren’t used to dealing with these, or you have been looking after children and not in paid work. There are welfare benefits (money) you can get to support yourself and your children either if you leave your home or you stay in your home and have your partner removed. These include:

  • Income Support
  • Jobseekers Allowance (JSA)
  • Housing Benefit
  • Child Benefit
  • Child Tax Credits
  • Pension Credits
  • Employment Support Allowance

If you are making a new claim for JSA or already receiving it and have experienced domestic abuse you may be eligible for the Jobseeker’s Allowance Domestic Violence (DV) Easement. This exempts JSA claimants from attending job seeking activities and to be actively seeking employment for up to 13 weeks.

Universal Credit

Universal credit is a new benefit system that is replacing many of the current benefits and tax credits listed above. It is being gradually rolled out across the country in different areas and to different groups of people. You can check here to find if your area is now included.

In an emergency you may be able to get a Crisis Grant from the Scottish Welfare Fund by applying to your local council.

Get advice

Get advice when applying for benefits. Women’s Aid and CAB have lots of experience of helping people apply. If your claim is turned down, you have the right to appeal. You can ask Women’s Aid or CAB to help you with this.

For more information about claiming social security you can visit:

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Legal Protection

If a partner or ex-partner is abusing or harassing you and/or your children, you can use the law to protect you. 

There are three main types of legal action you can take:

  • An exclusion order is a court order that suspends the right of a married person, civil partner, or cohabitee to live in the family home. 
  • An interdict is a court order that tells someone that they can’t do certain things such as approach you or contact you.
  • A non-harassment (restraining) order is a court order which tells your partner to stop behaving in a certain way.

If you choose to use the law, the first step is to contact a solicitor who is experienced in Family Law. If you aren’t working or if you receive benefits then you can apply for legal aid to pay some or all of the costs.

It is useful to have as much evidence as possible about what your partner/ex-partner has done to you. This can include text messages, voicemails, anyone who has witnessed the abuse and any medical records such as notes taken by your GP or dentist.

The law can be complicated and confusing, especially if you are stressed and want to find solutions quickly to improve yours and your children’s safety. There are people who can help you.

The Scottish Women’s Rights Centre provide free legal information and advice to all women affected by violence or abuse.

Your local women’s aid charity can offer you support and advocacy to help you get the protection you need.

Your local Citizen’s Advice Bureau can help you find out what your rights are, and where else can support you. 

Immigration, asylum and domestic abuse

If you are an immigrant to the UK and your partner is abusive, you may be unsure of what your rights are or what services are available to you. Your partner might tell you that you have no rights, and that no-one will help you.

Some women have ‘no recourse to public funds’ are which means that because of their insecure immigration status, they are not entitled to welfare benefits or temporary or permanent local authority housing. Women in this position are in the UK legally on spousal, work, student or other temporary visas and all of whom have the ‘no recourse to public funds’ condition attached to their stay*.

To work out what your rights are, either to remain in the UK or to access housing or other support, you must first find out your immigration status. You can find this out by looking in your passport. The options available to you will depend on your current immigration status.

If you have come to the UK on a spouse or partner visa and you are experiencing domestic violence then you can apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) straight away under the domestic violence rule. This is one of the Immigration Rules, which state who is allowed to enter and remain in the UK and under what conditions.

The domestic violence rule states that you will be entitled to ILR if:

  1. you have been given permission to remain in the UK as the spouse, civil partner or partner of a person present and settled in the UK and,
  2. that you lived with your spouse, civil partner or partner when you arrived in the UK or were given your visa; and,
  3. you are able to provide evidence that your relationship with your spouse, civil partner or partner was caused to break down before the end of the probationary period because of domestic violence.

Having Indefinite Leave to Remain should give you access to housing and financial support.

If you have leave as a fiancé́, student or worker you cannot make an application under the domestic violence rule even if you have married someone who is British or present and settled in the UK (has ILR).

However, there may be other applications that you could make if you want to remain in the UK. These include:

  • Asylum under the European Convention on Human Rights and the Refugee Convention
  • Staying in the UK on the basis of private and a family life
  • Applying under the long residence rule
  • Applying to stay in the UK because you have a British or settled partner
  • Applying to stay with a child in the UK

It is important that you seek support and advice, and find out what your options are. The best people to help you are:

  • The Scottish Women’s Rights Centre offer free legal information and support to all women, including those with no recourse to public funds.
  • Scotland’s 24 hour Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline on 0800 027 1234 who can help you to work out your options. There is a translating and interpreting service available if English is not your first language.
  • The Women`s Project who provide legal advice and representation to refugee and migrant women and children in Scotland who have an unsettled asylum/immigration position and who have experienced gender-based violence in their country of origin and/or the UK.
  • The Ethnic Minorities Law Centre (EMLC) provides legal advice and representation to individuals from Scotland’s Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) communities.

*Many women face an almost impossible situation, and services like local Women’s Aid groups are not allowed to offer support. We believe this is a big risk to immigrant women and children’s safety, and are continuing to lobby and campaign to change this requirement.

Women from the European Economic Area

If you are an immigrant to the UK from the European Economic Area (EEA) and your partner is abusive, you may be unsure of what your rights are or what support is available to you. Your partner might also tell you that you have no rights, and that no-one will help you, but you may be entitled to some means tested benefits (financial support) if you meet certain conditions.

To apply for these benefits, you must be able to show that:

  • You have a right to reside in the UK; this means a legal right to live here, and;
  • That you intend to settle in the UK and make it your home for the time being; this is known as habitual residence 

To show you have a right to reside you must:

  • be a worker/self-employed, former worker, job seeker, self-sufficient, student) or
  • have lived in the UK for 5 years and be classed as having a permanent right to resideor
  • be the family member of someone with the right to reside or
  • have a derivative right to reside, for example if you are the primary carer of a child who has the right to reside.

There is no clear definition of habitual residence; usually the person deciding if you meet the test would look at the following:

  • the length of time you have been in the UK
  • the reasons you came to the UK
  • how long you intend to stay here
  • whether you’re working in the UK or are likely to find work in the UK.

You have to have lived in the UK for at least 3 months before you claim any benefits. After you have been in the UK for 3 months you can only claim for a total of 91 days which can be split across a number of occasions of unemployment.

If you are experiencing domestic abuse and want to know what your options are it is important that you seek support and advice. The best people to help you are:

  • The Scottish Women’s Rights Centre offer free legal information and support to all women, including those with no recourse to public funds.
  • Scotland’s 24 hour Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline on 0800 027 1234 who can help you to work out your options. There is a translating and interpreting service available if English is not your first language.
  • The Women`s Project who provide legal advice and representation to refugee and migrant women and children in Scotland who have an unsettled asylum/immigration position and who have experienced gender-based violence in their country of origin and/or the UK.
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