Joint tenancy or single tenancy
Whether you are liable for the rent of your housemates if they stop paying depends on the type of tenancy agreement you have with your landlord.
Where a house is let on a room by room basis – called a single room or individual tenancy – you will only be liable for your own rent.
Where more than one person has signed a tenancy agreement then the general rule is that they will all be ‘jointly and severally’ liable - this is called a joint tenancy.
It is important to check what type of tenancy you are signing before you agree to move into a house.
- Remember if you're in a joint tenancy all housemates are liable for the whole rent
- Single room tenants will only be liable for their own rent
- Parents who sign as guarantors can also be liable for the whole rent in the case of a joint tenancy
Joint and several liability
Living with other people as joint tenants means you’re all responsible for the whole rent, even if someone moves out.
If one person stops paying the rent you will have to cover their share and then try to get it back from them by going to the small claims court.
For example, five students (James, Peter, Matthew, Howard and Fred) are renting a house together.
They all sign the same tenancy agreement for a total rent of £1000 per month, between themselves they agree that they will each pay £200 per month.
Check the legal agreement
However, if one of the five tenants, James for instance, stops paying his share, the landlord is entitled to claim the outstanding rent from any of the other tenants, not just from James.
The landlord is not bound by the tenants’ own agreement to pay £200 per month each.
The landlord can also decide to chase just one student for the outstanding money, rather than all of the tenants.
So, if one of the tenants is wealthy, the landlord can sue just him and get a judgment against him for the outstanding rent, even though he has paid his share.
If one person isn’t paying the rent, check the legal agreement you signed when you moved in.
Parents as guarantors
Whether your parents are liable for the rent of your housemates if they sign as guarantors for you relies on the sort of agreement you have with your landlord.
If you have a single room tenancy agreement - which only covers yourself and your own room - a guarantor will only be liable for your rent in the case you default.
If your parents sign as guarantors on a joint tenancy they can be held 'jointly and severally' liable for the whole rent in the same way you and your housemates are.
In most joint tenancies requiring guarantors, the landlord will usually try and get a guarantee from all of the students' parents.
This means that the landlord can normally claim the whole of any outstanding rent from any one parent guarantor, as the parent will effectively be guaranteeing the whole of the rent, not just their child’s share.
Any party to the agreement
This is because under ‘joint and several liability’ the landlord can sue any party to the agreement to recover losses.
This can be avoided by limiting the guarantor’s liability to a specified sum of money, for example your share of the rent.
So if one of your housemates does not pay their rent and your landlord has a guarantee from all of the students’ parents your landlord could chase your parent, acting as a guarantor, for the missing payment.