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Forum Spotlight: Tenant in joint contract wants to leave early

Victoria Barker
Written by Victoria Barker

When renting to students or a group of friends living in a HMO, it is common for the landlord to issue a joint tenancy agreement.

This week’s Forum Spotlight looks at a question by a landlord, over what to do about a student that wanted to leave a contract, and was being challenging.

The situation

A landlord posted on our Forum this week with a query about renting to students on a joint tenancy agreement.

The six students all studied at the same University and were all on a joint tenancy agreement.

The landlord did everything by the book as far as he was concerned. That is, at the start of the tenancy he asked the students to to meet him to sign the agreement. Two copies of the agreement were signed by everyone. One copy was retained by the landlord, and the other copy was given to the student who was nominated as the ‘lead’ tenant.

Dispute

The landlord is currently facing a dispute with one of the students. The student wants to break the agreement and leave while the five other students want to remain.

The landlord knew that because it is a joint tenancy agreement, the dispute is with a six students as the’tenant’.

The tenant that wants to leave is not the lead tenant, and he is now challenging the landlord, by saying that because he did not provide copies of the tenancy agreement to all six joint tenants on the contract-only the lead tenant- that this makes the agreement null and void.

The landlord wanted to know if the tenant was correct, and whether he was obliged to provide copies to all individuals on a joint tenancy at the start of the contract, or just the lead tenant as had already done.

He posted in our Forum asking for advice.

The response

One of our frequent Forum users began by stating that he never gives a copies of the AST to everyone on a joint tenancy agreement, and he only supplies one copy, and this is something that he has relied upon in court.

The landlord advised this member to let him go, and to re-do the AST again.

Another landlord agreed with this, and said that the landlord should tell the tenant that he can leave whenever he wishes, but he is committed to paying the rent for the duration of the fixed term. The landlord should also make it clear to the tenant that if he defaults, then he will enforce it through the courts.

Another landlord said that they would deal with this situation by, after the tenant has surrendered, to do a deed of assignment and send a copy of the deed to deposit protection, who can make the necessary changes to the deposit certificate.

Response from our Landlord Advice Team

An advisor from our Landlord Advice Team then posted on the thread, and confirmed that because the landlord had a joint and several liability contract, not only does this fall under the law of contracts but also the civil liability contribution act 1978 section 1. This means that regardless of who stays or goes, all tenants are liable for the payment of rent and that includes that person who leaves.

The tenancy agreement is legally binding, therefore if that person wishes to leave they will need to find a replacement tenant and the landlord would need to complete the deed of assignment for transfer of the new prospective tenant should they find a replacement for, until this has happened that person is liable for the rent.

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About the author

Victoria Barker

Victoria Barker

Victoria is the Communications Officer for the RLA.

She is responsible for producing articles for our Campaigns and News Centre, the weekly E-News newsletter and media review, and creating social media content. She also contributes to our members magazine, Residential Property Investor.

2 Comments

  • Hi,

    The landlord advice team have not answered the original question, does the landlord have to give a copy of the TA to each of the tenants?

    • Hi Jim

      One joint contract is sufficient. In all honesty, as the tenants had all clearly agreed the terms there would have been a binding oral contract even if no contract was provided.

      James LAT

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