Rights on death of cohabitant
Rights on death of cohabitant

The following Family guidance note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Rights on death of cohabitant
  • Tenancies
  • Tax
  • Intestacy
  • Pensions
  • Bereavement benefits
  • Fatal accidents

Cohabitants do not generally share the same rights afforded to a spouse or civil partner in the event of the death of their cohabitant (whether of the same-sex or opposite sex) regardless of the length of the relationship. Remedies available to a cohabitant are detailed below.

See also Practice Notes: Family provision claims—the cohabitant and Family provision claims—practice and procedure.


A cohabitant, spouse or civil partner is equally entitled to succeed to:

  1. a protected agricultural occupancy under the Rent (Agriculture) Act 1976

  2. a regulated tenancy under the Rent Act 1977

  3. an assured tenancy or agricultural occupancy under the Housing Act 1988

In addition, both a cohabitant, spouse or civil partner may succeed to a secure tenancy under the Housing Act 1985. However, an unmarried cohabitant must have resided with the tenant throughout the period of 12 months ending with the tenant's death in order to claim under this provision.

See also Practice Note: Occupation of the family home—cohabitants.


On death, the disadvantages of the tax treatment of cohabitants may also become apparent as there is no inheritance tax exemption for any transfer of assets, payments of maintenance etc. They will therefore be potentially exempt transfers, unless it can be shown that the payments lack gratuitous intent (for example, being paid in settlement of outstanding legal claims) or, in the case