But I hardly know you

Why do people do it? Why do they sign up for joint tenancies with private landlords together with people they have only just met?

I’m sure it all seems terribly exciting, but what are you letting yourself in for with your shiny new shorthold assured tenancy?

You and all the joint tenants are ‘jointly and severally’ liable for the rent. This means you are each liable for all the rent. If your instant friend stops paying rent, the landlord can come after you for it, even if you have been ‘paying your share’. The Landlord can claim it from you, all the tenants or any of the tenants, whichever option seems to offer the best option of getting the money back. This is entirely legal. Fancy getting a County Court judgement for several thousands of pounds?

And then what if you or your joint tenant brand new buddy wants to leave? Do you just walk away? Then you remain liable for the rent. Do you give notice? Then the whole joint tenancy is ended, for everyone, whether they agree or not.

Surely it will be OK if someone else is found to replace you (or your errant erstwhile friend)? Has the landlord agreed a whole new tenancy agreement for all joint tenants, including the new person? No? Then the new person is the sub-tenant of the existing joint tenants.

Does your tenancy agreement allow subletting? Probably not. Maybe the landlord has condoned it. If not, you are in breach of your tenancy agreement. But in any case you and the joint tenants remain liable for the whole rent to the landlord. Any problems with the new person/sub-tenant are your problems, not the landlord’s.

And then, when it has all gone pear-shaped and to your astonishment you find yourself facing a money claim for thousands of pounds and/or the sudden and unexpected end of your tenancy, you call me and make me feel like I am trampling on little kittens when I tell you there is nothing we can do.

For the sake of the kittens, don’t do it.

About Giles Peaker

Giles Peaker is a solicitor and partner in the Housing and Public Law team at Anthony Gold Solicitors in South London. You can find him on Linkedin and on Twitter. Known as NL round these parts, and still is Nearly Legal on Google +.
Posted in Assured Shorthold tenancy, Housing law - All and tagged , , , .

14 Comments

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  4. Unrelated comment:)

    I see you pipped me by a week on the Blawg Review later this year!

    Bagsy my theme being all things English and blighty, what-ho chums, time for tea? Land of Hope and Morning Glory etc.

    Also, I reckon I’ll have at lease 10 “comedy links” in my Blawg Review. Most of my posts are littered with them – scan read and then follow the links in my post of 26 January.

    I also think that random linking may make Google more aware of my existance. Just a thought.

  5. Blimey, a corporate comment flood. I only nabbed the week before because after that is holiday planning season.

    Tea, cricket and maiden aunts cycling to communion in the autumn mist are all yours. I’m thinking downtrodden masses and their noble defenders, internationally.

  6. Why do people do it? Perhaps because they don’t have much of an alternative. Should they live in a bedsit? Should they mortgage themselves over their heads? The state of the market and the policy and legislative framework put in place by governments over the last 30 years don’t give them the luxury of thinking about your kittens even if they understand the potential consequences of joint and several liability. There is no point in your advising them not to do it because even if one decides not to there are thousands more who will. Perhaps if you don’t like advising people in this situation you need to change the state of the housing market!

  7. Paul, thanks for the comment, but I think perhaps you might have looked at some more of the blog before jumping to conclusions. I am, for instance, well aware of the housing situation. In fact, I agree with most of your points, at least when they are not about the post.

    This post was born of being approached by quite a few people in the same week who were in that situation and had no idea of the legal consequences. Hence a simple post, hopefully funny, on what a joint shorthold assured means. Given the links in and traffic from non-legal blogs, it has seemed to answer a need.

    I am also very aware that people have no choice. I am a joint assured shorthold tenant myself. Sorry you took the post the wrong way. It is, however, worth people being aware of exactly what it is that they are getting into.

  8. Hi

    I have this issue right now, I think it is good you have posted exactly what it means. I had no idea when I signed the argreement of the implications and I am now in a situation where I am being charged rent as an “instant friend” walked out.

    However in this situation is it not possible for people to go to court to reclaim this rent fees from the person who has walked out?
    Provided of course reasonable steps have been made to seek a new tenant.

  9. Thanks. Sorry about the problem.

    You (and other joint tenants) may have the basis of a money claim against the walker – a small claims case if under £5000. You should seek advice from a Citizens’ Advice Bureau or similar on this.

    You should clarify the situation about a new tenant with your landlord, as I mentioned above. It may be in breach of the tenancy agreement.

    I suppose, technically, it could be a matter of an action against a trustee for breach of fiduciary duty, as a joint tenancy is technically a trust, with tenants as trustees of the tenancy for all the tenants. But I wouldn’t recommend it…

  10. It occurs to me that it would be nice if the county courts, exercising small claims jurisdiction, had the power to exclude the delinquent joint tenant from property, so that the remaining tenants would have the opportunity to sublet.

  11. Nice, but actually extraordinarily complicated. And most Shorthold Assured tenancy agreements actually exclude sub-letting, even if it often happens in practice.

    Your plan still leaves the remaining joint tenants liable for the whole rent, unfortunately. A way to sever joint tenancies without ending all the tenancies (outside divorce and the family courts) would also be nice, but would take a major rewrite of some basic land law, assorted housing acts and possibily trouble with trust law. Sigh.

    Plus, the buy-to-let landlords would be up in arms. The current scheme gives them a range of targets to get the rent and they can pick the most promising one.

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