Joint tenant liability for rent

If one joint tenant or licensee fails to pay rent, the other will have to pay the whole amount to prevent the landlord taking possession.

This content applies to England & Wales

Rent liability for cohabiting joint tenants

The position of joint tenant cohabitants in relation to liability for rent can be summarised as follows:

  • where the tenancy is in joint names, both cohabitants are liable for the rent both jointly and independently of the other, regardless of who is occupying the property. This means that either or both of the tenants can be held responsible for the whole rent and it is not possible to argue that one tenant is only liable for a particular share. This is known as 'joint and several liability'

  • the joint tenants remain liable for the rent as long as the tenancy continues

  • the court can order a transfer of rent liability from one cohabitant to another under family law

  • rent liability is transferred on the voluntary assignment of a tenancy

In practice, if one joint tenant fails to pay anything towards the rent, then the other will have to pay to prevent the landlord taking possession proceedings.

The joint tenant who had paid would then need to go to court and take out a small claim against the other joint tenant to get back their share of the rent. This may not be possible if the joint tenant has simply left and it is not known where.

Rent liability for cohabiting joint licensees

The position of joint licensee cohabitants in relation to liability for rent is very similar to that of tenants:

  • where the licence is in joint names, both partners are liable for the rent both jointly and independently of the other, regardless of who is occupying the property. This means that either or both of the licensees can be held responsible for the whole rent and it is not possible to argue that one licensee is only liable for a particular share. This is known as 'joint and several liability'

  • the joint licensees remain liable for the rent as long as the licence continues

  • the court can order a transfer of rent liability from one partner to another under family law

In practice, if one joint licensee fails to pay anything towards the rent, then the other will have to pay to prevent the landlord taking possession proceedings. The joint licensee who had paid would then need to go to court and take out a small claim against the other joint licensee to get back their share of the rent. This may not be possible if the joint licensee has simply left and their whereabouts is unknown.

Last updated: 26 February 2021