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Guarantors for private renters

A guarantor is someone who agrees to pay your rent if you do not pay it. They sign an agreement which has their responsibilities and when they have to pay.

You do not always need a guarantor to rent in the UK.

But many landlords and agents ask for a rent guarantor before offering you a tenancy. 

Some people are more likely to be asked for a guarantor.

For example, if you:

  • are a student or renting for the first time

  • have a low income or get benefits

  • move to the UK from overseas

  • cannot give references from a previous landlord

  • have CCJs for debts or have gone bankrupt

Who can be a guarantor

Guarantors can be people like your relatives or close friends, but they do not have to be.

Landlords and agents often check your guarantor's credit history, income and money. They might also ask for references.

They might say your guarantor must be a homeowner.

Your landlord or agent cannot charge extra fees if you need a guarantor. For example, they cannot charge for checks or a guarantor agreement. 

Guarantor agreements

A guarantor agreement is a legal document.

Your guarantor should get copies of both the tenancy agreement and the guarantor agreement before they sign anything. They should read both carefully before signing.

Make sure you and your guarantor understand: 

  • when the landlord can ask your guarantor for money 

  • what happens in a joint tenancy 

  • how long the guarantor agreement lasts

Make sure you and your guarantor are happy with the agreement.

Video: 3 things to know before signing a guarantor agreement

Video transcript

1. What are guarantors liable for?

If you agree to be a guarantor for someone, you'll be liable if they don't pay the rent.

Depending on what you've signed, you may also be asked to pay for any damage to the property. Check the guarantor agreement to see what you might have to pay.

2. Joint tenancies and liability for rent

For joint tenancies your guarantor agreement will normally apply to the rent for the whole property, not just one tenant's share.

That means if any of the other tenants don't pay, the landlord or agent can still pursue you for the arrears.

Consider asking for a guarantor agreement that only covers your friend or family member's portion of the overall rent.

3. How long are guarantors liable for?

You'll be liable for any unpaid rent for the initial fixed term contract. If the tenant stays on after that, it will usually depend on what you've agreed to.

You might be able to argue that your liability ends if:

  • there's been any change to the terms of the tenancy, or

  • the guarantor agreement wasn't properly explained to you, or you felt under pressure to agree

A Shelter adviser explains what you need to know before signing a guarantor agreement. [Video length: 01:08]

When your guarantor can be asked to pay

A landlord could ask your guarantor to pay if you:

  • do not pay rent on time

  • cause damage to the property

They should contact you about the problems first.

If neither of you pay what's been agreed, the landlord could apply for a county court judgment (CCJ) against either or both of you.

A CCJ is a court order which says you owe someone money.

Guarantors for a joint tenancy

Each joint tenant is responsible for the total amount of rent, not just their share. You might have to pay any rent shortfall if other joint tenants do not pay their share.

This is called being 'jointly and severally liable' for rent.

A guarantor agreement for a joint tenancy works the same way. Your guarantor has to pay the shortfall if other joint tenants do not pay their share of the rent, unless the guarantor agreement says they do not have to.

If there is more than one guarantor, each one should sign the guarantor agreement and agree to any changes.

Example: shared student house

The landlord might ask a parent of each student to guarantee the rent.

Each parent could be responsible for the whole rent unless they have an agreement which says they only have to cover their child's share.

How long a guarantor agreement lasts

There's no general rule about how long a guarantor agreement lasts. It depends on what the guarantor agreement says.

Your guarantor should make it clear if they want to stop being your guarantor after your fixed term tenancy ends.

If the landlord agrees, it should be clearly set out in the guarantor agreement.

Changes to the tenancy

A rent increase or new tenancy agreement usually means that you need a new guarantor agreement. The old one will not count any more.

But your guarantor could still be responsible if either:

  • they agree to the change

  • the guarantor agreement says the agreement keeps going in these situations

A debt adviser can check the guarantor agreement if your landlord tries to use it.

A court can decide if the guarantor agreement is still in place if it's not clear.

Your landlord or agent might not be able to use it if your guarantor was forced, pressured or misled into signing.

Options if you do not have a guarantor

You could offer to pay more rent in advance if you have savings.

You could apply for a discretionary housing payment (DHP) to help with rent in advance or a deposit if you get universal credit or housing benefit where you live now.

Some councils and charities have rent guarantee schemes that: 

  • give money to help with rent in advance and a deposit

  • act as a guarantor service and cover unpaid rent or damage up to a set amount

You might have to pay back any money paid on your behalf.

Find out about options if you cannot afford rent in advance or a deposit.


Ask your university or college about any funds or support.

They might have:

  • a hardship fund

  • student support services

  • a list of landlords who do not ask for a guarantor

Find out more about private renting as a student.

Last updated: 8 April 2024

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