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sharing property and joint tenancies: Rights and responsibilities

A lot of tenants share their property with someone else, whether it’s strangers, friends, family or a partner but what are your rights and responsibilities when sharing a rented property?

What tenancy do I have?

The kind of tenancy you have is important, as it will affect your joint responsibilities as tenants and what happens if someone wishes to leave the property. Typically in a house share situation, it will be one of these two types of tenancy:

Joint tenancy

If more than one person signed an agreement together (all your names are on the same document) then it will be a joint tenancy.

A joint tenancy is more common with students, friends or family moving in together, as you will all likely move in and leave at the same time.

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Separate tenancy

If each person in the property signed an agreement separately (just your name on the document) it will be a separate tenancy.

Separate tenancies usually occur when you move into a shared property that is already occupied or when you move in with strangers.

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JOINT TENANCIES

Tips for a joint tenancy

Since joint tenancies rely on mutual trust, you should only enter a tenancy with people you know well. This means you can avoid arguments when it comes to paying rent and getting the deposit back. Make sure you all plan on staying at the property for at least the fixed term of the tenancy and that you all take care of the property equally, as you are all equally liable on the tenancy.

Responsibilities

Since joint tenants are under one agreement, they all share the same responsibilities and face the same consequences as if they were one tenant.

This means that everyone must pay the rent on time, look after the property and follow the terms of the tenancy agreement. If one person neglects their duties, for example by not paying rent or breaking a term in the agreement, then everyone on the joint tenancy is liable, not just the guilty tenant.

Joint tenants should also elect a lead tenant, who the landlord or letting agent can correspond with regarding the deposit, bills or any other queries.

Ending a joint tenancy

If the landlord wanted to evict just one tenant from the property, they would have to evict all of you, as you are all part of the same tenancy agreement (although there are solutions to this, see below).

Any of the joint tenants can also end the tenancy with or without the agreement of the other tenants when the fixed term of the tenancy has ended by giving a valid notice to quit. See our guide on what to do at the end of your tenancy.

If any joint tenant gives proper notice, this ends the tenancies for everyone else in the shared home. If this happens all tenants must leave unless the landlord agrees to grant a new tenancy to anyone who wants to stay.

You can’t end a fixed-term tenancy before it expires unless the tenancy agreement has a break clause or all the joint tenants and the landlord agree to end it.

Leaving a joint tenancy

Any tenant in a joint tenancy can give notice to leave if the fixed term of the tenancy ends or if they give the correct amount of notice for a periodic tenancy (sometimes known as a rolling contract).

If one tenant decides to end the tenancy in this way, then the tenancy will end for the rest of the joint tenants as well. If the other tenants wish to stay in the property, they should contact their letting agent or landlord to start a new tenancy agreement; this can also be done if a joint tenant is evicted.

If a tenant wants to leave earlier, they must either follow the terms of the break clause in their tenancy agreement (if there is one) or agree with the other joint tenants and the landlord that they can leave the property earlier. In this case, they may be asked to find a suitable tenant to replace them in the tenancy.

If a tenant leaves a joint tenancy early and without permission, the other joint tenants will be liable to pay for their rent. It’s better to ask permission and find a replacement tenant if you need to leave early.

Getting the deposit back from a joint tenancy

When a deposit for a joint tenancy is protected, only one tenant is named on it; this is the lead tenant. Since joint tenancies are technically one tenancy; there is only one deposit, even if the deposit is made up of payments from each tenant. Once the tenancy ends, the deposit will be returned to the lead tenant only.

It is then the lead tenant’s responsibility to distribute the returned deposit to the other tenants. The deposit scheme, landlord or letting agent cannot assist with this matter once the deposit is returned.

Make sure you know who the lead tenant is and agree between yourselves on how to split the returned deposit.

SEPARATE TENANCIES

Tips for a separate tenancy

Being on a separate tenancy will likely mean you’re living with strangers. Respect each other’s privacy and lifestyles and make sure that communal areas are kept clean and are not misused. Be sure to know who is named on any bills so that everything is paid correctly and remember to follow your tenancy agreement, even if other tenants break theirs.

Separate tenant responsibilities

Separate tenants will have to look after any communal areas of the property (such as the kitchen, living room and bathroom if shared) between themselves and be responsible for the specific area of the property they rent (a bedroom in the property).

If an eviction were to occur, only the tenant named on the eviction notice would have to leave, not the other tenants.

Being a nuisance to other tenants can result in eviction, so you should always fulfil your shared responsibilities and treat other tenants with respect.

Leaving a separate tenancy

If you are a separate tenant, you can leave your tenancy by giving notice once your fixed-term ends or by giving the correct amount of notice if it is a periodic tenancy.

Since the tenancy is separate, no other tenant will have to leave the property and the landlord will likely find another tenant to replace you.

Getting the deposit back from a separate tenancy

As a separate tenant and you leave, you will be entitled to the deposit you paid, minus any deductions. Any damage that occurred in the room you were renting can be deducted from your deposit, but not damage from any other tenant’s rooms (unless you were the cause). Deductions may also be taken for any damage in communal areas you may have caused.

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Talk to your ARLA Propertymark letting agent

If you’re renting through an ARLA Propertymark protected agent, they will be happy to discuss any queries regarding your tenancy. They can advise you further or get in touch with the landlord to clarify anything. Find an ARLA Propertymark Protected agent for your next property.

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