Q: I have a flat that I rent to a couple. Their relationship has broken down and one of the tenants wants to leave and has given me notice. The second tenant doesn’t want to leave but they haven’t been the best tenants (they are two months behind with the rent) and I’d rather get them both out. If one person gives notice on a joint tenancy, does that terminate the agreement? (I’m in England, it’s an AST signed in 2010.)

A: The short answer is yes. When one person in a joint tenancy seeks to dissolve the agreement, it ends the tenancy for both (or all) the tenants named in the agreement. That joint tenancy cannot continue if one person pulls out. If you wanted to, the one tenant who wishes to stay could sign a new AST, but you’ve ruled that out in this case because they are in serious arrears.

The easiest path is to negotiate the end of the joint tenancy with them. You need to make it clear to both tenants that they both have to move out of the property on the agreed date because one party has ended the tenancy. You’ll also have to emphasize to the tenant who wishes to stay that you will not be offering a new tenancy. Hopefully that will be enough and both will move out.

However, if that doesn’t work and one tenant does signal that they are staying put, you’ll have to resort to the law. Because of the arrears, you can serve Section 21 & Section 8 notices. These notices apply to both tenants.

In terms of the getting your hands on the rent money they owe. Both the tenants are liable for these arrears and you can pursue both or either of them for it. You have a protected deposit, so that will cover some of it. Start that process now and make sure you have their contact details. It will be very tricky to pursue them if they disappear from the face of the earth.

4 Responses to “Ask Upad: I have joint tenants and one wants to leave, what do I do?”

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  2. My opinion on this is that it is vital you make it clear that as they have both signed the TA, they must both sign to end it - reason: they are jointly and severally liable - i.e. each is liable for the whole rent if the other one does not pay.
    And, as a corollory to that, one cannot end it without the other.
    It's one reason why I never allow each tenant to pay half of the payment each - over time, it leads them to think they are liable for only half and can walk off on their own. They can't!
    So, I always insist on one standing order payment.
    It is tough but if they did not have a secure trusting relationship, they should not have entered into a joint financial agreement.
    Of course, you can end it too under the usual rules. In these circs, if at end of fixed term, I'd go for Section 21 Notice and accelerated possession.

  3. Dave says:

    David Lawrenson, as the article says, once the tenancy has become priodic, EITHER tenant can bring the tenancy to an end unilaterally. If it were not so, an unwilling tenant could be tied to the property forever.

    However, I do not believe that a s21 or s8 is required to remove a tenant who choses not to leave when their partner serves notice. The written notice is sufficient to apply to the courts for possession.

  4. Hi Dave
    Re "David Lawrenson, as the article says, once the tenancy has become priodic, EITHER tenant can bring the tenancy to an end unilaterally. If it were not so, an unwilling tenant could be tied to the property forever."
    Not sure I would agree wth you but I will check with a legal expert.
    My u/s is that they are both jointly and severally liable....So if one doesnt want to leave and one does, the agreement should continue. And the moral is - dont get into a legal bed with someone unless you are sure you want to wake up to them and their financial problems every morning.

    On the second para, I agree with you. The section 8 and section 21 would apply to named tenants plus anyone else who is in the property. As a lawyer once said to me, the legal repossession action is "against the world."

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