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Tenancy agreements in a shared house

Make sure you know what type of tenancy agreement you have before you move into a shared house or flat. Tenants and lodgers have different rights.

The type of rental agreement you have depends on who you share the property with.

You usually have an assured shorthold tenancy if you rent privately and your landlord lives somewhere else.

Most people who share a house with other people who are not family members live in a house in multiple occupation (HMO). Most HMO landlords must be licensed by the council.

If you live with your landlord and share rooms like the kitchen, bathroom or living room with them, you're a lodger.

Use our tenancy checker to check your tenancy type.

Joint tenancies

You have a joint tenancy if you and the other tenants are all on the same agreement.

You are all equally responsible for the rent and keeping to the terms of your agreement.

Your landlord can ask you to pay another joint tenant's share of the rent if they do not pay.

Find out more in our guide to joint tenancies.

Individual tenancies

You have an individual tenancy if each person who lives there has a separate agreement with the landlord.

Each tenant is only responsible for their own rent. Other tenants can leave or be evicted without it affecting your individual tenancy.

Tenancy in another person's name

You may not have tenancy rights if someone else has a tenancy agreement with the landlord but you do not.

For example, if you move in with a friend or partner and your agreement is with them, not directly with the landlord.

If you and the tenant are married or civil partners

You have 'home rights' under family law. This means you have the same tenancy rights as your husband, wife or civil partner. This applies even if you're not on the tenancy agreement or they have moved out.

You cannot be asked to leave or evicted without a court order unless you're lodgers.

If you have the wrong type of agreement

Your rights are based on the real situation and not what your landlord says.

Some landlords give out agreements with the wrong label because they want to give tenants fewer rights. For example, if you're asked to sign a 'licence agreement'.

Some landlords use the wrong type of agreement by mistake. For example, if you're asked to sign a 'lodger agreement' even though the landlord does not live there.

If your landlord does not live with you, you will probably be an assured shorthold tenant even if you sign a licence or lodger agreement.

If you do not have a written contract

You still have rights even if you did not sign a written tenancy agreement.

Any verbal agreement you made with the landlord could count as a legal agreement if you move in and the landlord accepts rent from you. Texts and emails can also count as legal agreements.

Keep any messages that show you agreed a rent amount and how long the agreement is for.

Verbal agreements can be harder to enforce if there is a dispute and no proof of what was agreed. Ask your landlord for a written contract so you both understand your rights and responsibilities.

Landlords have some legal responsibilities even without a written tenancy agreement. For example, your landlord is always responsible for most repairs even if they told you something different when you moved in.

Subletting from another tenant

Your landlord is subletting if they rent to you while they are renting from someone else. For example, if you move into a shared house and pay rent to another tenant.

The person you rent from is your immediate landlord. The owner of the property is the head landlord.

You only have a legal relationship with your immediate landlord. The head landlord cannot evict you while your immediate landlord still has a tenancy, even if your landlord did not have permission to sublet.

Check if the person you're renting from has permission to sublet before you move in. It may be against the rules of their tenancy. You may have to leave if they are evicted.

Tenancy deposits in shared homes

Landlords often take a single deposit for a joint tenancy. This can happen if you and the other tenants pay separate shares but it is protected as one deposit.

In this situation the landlord could take money from the whole deposit if one joint tenant:

  • fails to pay their share of the rent

  • causes damage to the property

You may not get all your deposit back even if these problems were not your fault.

Read our advice guides

Individual tenancies

Your deposit covers your own private spaces, such as your bedroom, and shared areas such as hallways, kitchens and living rooms.

Your landlord cannot take money from your deposit to cover unpaid rent owed by another tenant or damage done by another tenant to their private spaces.

Ask for an inventory when you move in so you can prove you did not cause existing damage.

Last updated: 29 September 2022

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