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.