There are two main acceptable ways for landlords to deal with shared properties – and one inadvisable way, which we will be looking at in this short series.
The first of these is the most common – joint and several tenancies.
Joint and several tenancies
This is where all the tenants sign the same tenancy agreement and so have equal responsibility for the tenancy.
Under joint and several tenancies, all of the tenants are treated together as ‘the tenant’ – which has a number of consequences:
1 Liability for rent
The tenants are all responsible equally for the rent.
So the landlord is legally entitled to sue each of them separately or all of them together (or just a few of them together) for all of the rent – irrespective of
- the size of the room they use,
- any agreement the tenants may have made among themselves regarding responsibility for the rent (which will not be binding on the landlord) or indeed
- whether any of the individual tenants are actually living at the property.
For example if one of the tenants moves out – so long as the tenancy agreement he or she signs is still effective, technically the landlord can still sue the tenant who moved out for any rent arrears. Although most landlords will look primarily to the tenants in occupation, they don’t have to. It’s their choice.
If the landlord wants to evict the tenants they must all be evicted together. He cannot evict just one of joint tenants.
Indeed I have known cases where, in order to get rid of one of joint tenants, the landlord has gone to court to get a possession order against all of them, has enforced this via the bailiffs, and then let the other tenants back in again under a new tenancy agreement.
3 Council tax
Provided the landlord has not retained any part of the property for his own use, the tenants will normally be liable for the Council Tax (although if they fail to pay the Council may still be able to pursue the landlord).
The landlord will normally be able to require the tenants to put the utilities bills into their own names so the landlord will not be responsible for this.
This tenancy type is suitable for couples and families and for groups of people who are likely to be living at the property for the same period of time – for example groups of students sharing a house for the academic year.
Finding a tenancy agreement
Most of the standard tenancy agreements available for sale will be suitable for this situation.
NB If you want to find the most suitable tenancy agreement for you – see my Which Tenancy Agreement Guide.
This tenancy type for shared properties is probably the most common as it is more convenient for the landlord. There is less paperwork, and he can claim the rent from all of the tenants.
Where this tenancy type falls down is if one of the joint tenants wants to leave mid way through the fixed term.
Unless a replacement tenancy agreement is signed by the remaining tenants and a replacement tenant, the outgoing tenant will remain liable until the end of the fixed term.
Note however that renting to several tenants on one tenancy agreement will not prevent a property being an HMO if the situation meets one of the legal definitions. You can find out more about this in our HMO Legal Basics series.
Next time we will look at renting a room in a shared house.