Relationship breakdown: joint tenancies
Find out about your options if your relationship breaks down when you have a joint tenancy in a private rented home and one of you wants to move out.
Things to consider if you separate
When your relationship ends, you'll need to discuss what you want to happen to your joint tenancy.
You both need to understand:
when you can end the tenancy
what happens if you end the tenancy but your ex still lives there
If you want to leave and you're confident that your ex will continue paying the full rent, you can move out without ending the tenancy.
Check if you have a joint tenancy
Your rental agreement will be a joint tenancy if both you and your partner are named as tenants on the contract.
If you leave your home and don't end your tenancy legally, you'll still be liable for rent.
Check your agreement to see if it's a periodic or fixed term tenancy.
Ending a periodic tenancy
A periodic tenancy is ended differently to a fixed term tenancy. You won't need your ex's agreement to end it, and you'll no longer be liable for rent once your notice expires.
However, if one of you ends the tenancy it means that the other joint tenant no longer has the right to live there. They'll have to leave unless they can agree a new contract with the landlord.
Leaving your fixed term tenancy early
If you have a fixed term agreement (for example, for 6 or 12 months), you both need to agree to leave your tenancy early. If you both agree, you can either:
use a break clause if your contract has one
negotiate with your landlord
If one of you wants to stay you still need to end the tenancy properly. The person staying should sort out a new agreement. If they don’t you will both be liable for rent.
Leaving at the end of a fixed term tenancy
An assured shorthold tenancy will usually end if you both decide to move out by the last day of your fixed term contract. Check your tenancy agreement to find out whether you do need to give notice.
If one of you stays past the end date
If you have an assured shorthold tenancy, no new agreement is signed and one of you stays, your agreement will automatically continue as a periodic tenancy.
This means you will both be liable for rent.
The remaining tenant should sign a new agreement with the landlord. This should be done before the end date of your existing tenancy.
When you can’t agree on what to do
Joint tenants are still jointly responsible for the rent if the tenancy isn't properly ended, even if one person leaves.
In a joint tenancy you are liable for rent arrears caused by you or any other tenant. This is called joint and several liability
This means the landlord can chase either tenant for any outstanding rent.
If you are left in the property
You may be able to claim universal credit if you're on a low income and can't afford the rent.
You could discuss other options with your landlord such as a rent reduction or finding replacement tenants.
If you're worried the other tenant may try to end the tenancy, you could speak to a family law solicitor to see if you can prevent this. You may need to pay for a solicitor's advice.
If you leave and can’t afford to keep paying rent
If your landlord pursues you for rent, try explaining your situation. They may agree a compromise or pursue the other tenant if they're still living there.
If you can't come to an agreement with them, your landlord may take action. This could mean they try to evict any remaining joint tenant and take you both to court to cover their costs. It could lead to a county court judgement (CCJ) against you.
There won't always be a court hearing, and you might not know about it if your landlord doesn't have your current address.
Last updated: 22 August 2019