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Joint tenancies

Where a tenancy is granted to two or more people, the tenants hold the tenancy jointly and are both liable for rent and other costs.

This content applies to England

What is a joint tenancy?

A joint tenancy is where there is more than one tenant, and each tenant has the same:

  • agreement

  • start date

  • right to possession of the property

  • interest in the property

Interest in the property means in terms of extent, nature and duration.

This is sometimes called the four unities. The four unities are unity of title, time, interest and possession. Each requirement must be met for there to be a joint tenancy.

Each joint tenant is equally entitled to peaceful enjoyment of the entire property.

Each joint tenant has the same right to possession of the entire property and one tenant cannot exclude the others from occupying from any part of the property.

In practice, joint tenants normally agree between themselves how the property will be occupied, for example, who will occupy which bedroom. These agreements are between the tenants only and are not binding on the landlord.

Some tenancy types require the tenant to live in the property as their only or principal home. Where this is a condition of the tenancy, this is satisfied if only one of the joint tenants is in occupation.

Joint liability for rent and costs

Joint tenants are jointly and severally liable for all the obligations owed under the tenancy.

This means that the landlord can pursue just one of the tenants or someone acting as their guarantor for all the obligations and rent due under the agreement. For example, they could be liable for the rent owed by all tenants.

Tenants who are minors

A joint tenancy can be shared between a minor and an adult aged 18 or over, but not between two minors. The adult tenant will hold the legal estate as trustee for both joint tenants.

Find out more about tenancies for children and young people.

Joint licences

Joint licences follow the same rules as joint tenancies.

How a joint tenancy can be ended

The landlord or any of the tenants can end a joint tenancy by serving the correct notice. It can also be ended by a mutually agreed surrender between the tenants and the landlord.

Landlord's notice

A valid notice served by the landlord on any one of the joint tenants can end the tenancy for all joint tenants.[1] The notice must be the correct notice for the tenancy type.

In the case of a joint assured shorthold tenancy, a valid section 21 notice must names all the joint tenants and be served on at least one of them. The tenant is classed as all of the people who share the joint and several liability, and the tenant is correctly named by inclusion of all of those names.[2]

Find out more about notices in possession proceedings.

Tenants' notice during a fixed term tenancy

All joint tenants must consent to exercising a break clause to end a tenancy during the fixed term, unless a written term of the tenancy allows for any one of the joint tenants to use the break clause.

Tenant's notice during a periodic tenancy

A valid notice to quit served by only one joint tenant ends a periodic tenancy for all joint tenants.[3]

A valid notice to quit by one joint tenant during a periodic tenancy will end the tenancy even if the other tenants do not agree or if they are not aware.

A tenant is allowed to end the joint tenancy and enter into a new sole tenancy with the landlord.[4]

If one joint tenant serves a notice to quit which is not valid, they cannot agree with the landlord to waive any error in the notice, for example if the notice did not expire on the correct day.[5]

Find out more about an occupier's notice to end a periodic tenancy or licence.


Surrender is an agreement to end the tenancy early. All parties, including the landlord and all joint tenants must agree to surrender. A tenancy can be surrendered during both the fixed term and during a periodic tenancy.

Implied surrender happens when the conduct of the tenants and the landlord clearly indicates that neither party wants to continue with the tenancy. If the landlord and tenants do not agree that a surrender has taken place, a court can decide on the evidence available. 

One joint tenant cannot surrender a tenancy without the consent of the other joint tenants.[6]

Find out more about surrender of a tenancy.

When a joint tenant leaves

A joint tenant who is leaving a joint tenancy might want to end all ties with the tenancy. The joint tenant's options for doing this depend on their circumstances.

When a joint tenant can be replaced

A tenant could be replaced on the tenancy agreement if all tenants and the landlord agree.

The new person will only become a joint tenant if there is an express or implied agreement between all parties that both:

  • the original joint tenancy has been surrendered

  • a new joint tenancy has been granted

If there has been no surrender, then the new tenant will be a subtenant or licensee of the existing joint tenants. The joint tenant who moves out retains all their rights and responsibilities for as long as the joint tenancy continues.

The only exception to this rule is for a joint statutory tenancy under the Rent Act 1977 where, if one joint tenant leaves, the tenancy passes to the remaining tenant or tenants.[7]

When a landlord can charge a fee

A landlord or letting agent can charge a fee in relation to the surrender and re-grant of a joint tenancy.

A private landlord or letting agent is prohibited from charging a tenant or other relevant person more than £50 in connection with an assured shorthold tenancy, licence or tenancy granted to a student by a specified educational institution. If the landlord or agent’s reasonable costs are greater than £50, a higher fee can be charged.[8]

Find out more about banned tenant fees and penalties for landlords.

When a joint tenancy can be assigned

A joint tenant might be able to assign their interest in the tenancy to the remaining joint tenant. This depends on the type of tenancy agreement and terms in the agreement.

For assured and assured shorthold tenancies, whether the tenant has the right to assign the tenancy depends on what is in their tenancy agreement. If the agreement says nothing about assignment, the landlord's consent is required. The landlord can withhold their consent for any reason.

The right to assign regulated tenancies is governed by the terms in the tenancy and requires the landlord’s consent. It is not possible to assign a protected shorthold tenancy.

Assignment is not normally available for a joint secure, flexible, or introductory tenancy.

Where the agreement states that the tenant can assign with the landlord’s consent, the consent should not be unreasonably withheld. 

A tenant who assigns the tenancy without consent where it is required has breached the tenancy. The landlord could issue possession proceedings. 

An assignment must be made by deed. A deed is a written document that is signed as a deed and witnessed. An attempt to assign without satisfying all the formalities of a deed could be effective as an equitable assignment. The tenants should seek specialist legal advice if they wish to assign by deed.

Find out more about assignment of a tenancy.

When there has been a relationship breakdown

Where there is a relationship breakdown between joint tenants, the court can make an occupation order in favour of one joint tenant. An occupation order can exclude any other joint tenant from the property on a short term basis while longer term housing options are explored.

A court can also transfer one joint tenant’s interest into the other joint tenant’s sole name even if the other joint tenant does not agree to it. The courts have powers to do this under matrimonial or family law, and in the Children Act 1989.

A tenant might need to make an urgent application to court for an injunction to stop another joint tenant from serving notice to quit and ending the tenancy before the transfer of tenancy can be applied for.

Find out more about housing rights of married joint tenants and housing rights of cohabiting joint tenants.

Who can succeed to a joint tenancy

After a joint tenant dies, the tenancy continues in the name of the remaining joint tenant or tenants under the right of survivorship.[9] This happens regardless of the tenancy type.

The only exception to this rule is for a joint regulated statutory tenancy under the Rent Act 1977. If the surviving statutory tenant does not occupy the property, the tenancy will cease to exist on the death of the resident joint tenant.

Find out more about succession to a tenancy.

Tenancy deposits for joint tenancies

Any deposit received in connection with a joint tenancy is treated as a single deposit, even if it is made up of individual payments from different joint tenants.

In most cases, each joint tenant contributes an equal share of the deposit. Joint tenants have joint and several liability for a joint tenancy. This means that if one joint tenant defaults on their rent, the landlord can deduct the outstanding amount from the deposit paid by all.

Deposit protection scheme

A landlord must protect the deposit for an assured shorthold tenancy in a government-approved deposit protection scheme.

The landlord must also serve the tenants with prescribed information. The name and contact details of each joint tenant must be included.[10]

Service of the prescribed information in a single communication addressed to all the joint tenants or to any lead tenant should be sufficient to comply with the requirements of the tenancy deposit legislation.

All joint tenants must apply to court together to claim against a landlord for breach of the tenancy deposit protection rules.

Find out more about tenancy deposit protection and deposit claims against landlords.

Amount of tenancy deposit

A tenancy deposit is capped at: [11]

  • five weeks’ rent, where the total annual rent is less than £50,000

  • six weeks’ rent, where the total annual rent is £50,000 or more

The cap for a joint tenancy relates to the total weekly rent for the tenancy. A landlord cannot ask for a tenancy deposit equivalent to five or six weeks’ rent from each of the joint tenants.[12]

Find out more about banned tenant fees and penalties for landlords.

Deposits when a joint tenant moves out

When a joint tenant has moved out, they will need to agree with the other joint tenants and the landlord what will happen to any deposit they have paid.

When an occupier is replaced and a new tenancy starts

The new occupier could become a joint tenant under a new joint tenancy if the original tenancy is surrendered by agreement of all parties. The initial deposit after any agreed deductions should be returned to the original tenants. The landlord and remaining joint tenants can then enter into a new joint tenancy agreement.

The original tenants should decide between themselves how much to return to the departing tenant. The landlord can then take a new deposit and serve new prescribed information on the new and remaining tenants.

When an occupier is replaced and the joint tenancy continues

A new occupier might be asked to pay their share of the deposit to the departing tenant. If a new tenancy is not entered into, the original joint tenancy will continue and the new occupier will usually become a licensee of the original joint tenants, including the departing tenant.

The remaining joint tenants should pay the departing tenant's share of the deposit to them when the tenancy ends.

When all joint tenants have been replaced

It is possible for all existing tenants to be replacement tenants, and not named on the original tenancy agreement.

In one County Court appeal, the new tenants had moved in with the agreement of the landlord and paid a deposit to the departing tenants they replaced. They had a right to claim when their deposit was not protected.[13]

Housing benefit and universal credit for joint tenants

The rules on housing benefit and universal credit housing costs element for joint tenancies depend on whether the joint tenants are:

  • a household

  • subject to Local Housing Allowance rules

For example, a cohabiting couple would be classed as a household.

Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rules apply to most private renters, whether they are receipt of housing benefit or universal credit. Find out more about the LHA scheme.

When joint tenants are subject to LHA rules

Joint tenants who are a household and subject to LHA rules receive the relevant LHA rate for their household. For example, a couple without children are entitled to the one-bedroom rate.

Where joint tenants are not in the same household and are subject to the LHA rules, each joint tenant receives the individual LHA rate they are entitled to. For example, a single person under the age of 35 is usually entitled to the shared accommodation rate.

Find out more about how Local Housing Allowance is calculated.

When joint tenants are not subject to LHA rules

Joint tenants in social housing are not subject to the Local Housing Allowance rules.

Joint tenants who are a household and not subject to LHA rules are entitled to the full contractual rent plus eligible service charges.

Where joint tenants are not in the same household and are not subject to the LHA rules, the total rent is apportioned for each joint tenant. The apportionment is usually an equal division of the total rent, unless there is evidence to support a different apportionment.

Find out more about the size-related criteria for universal credit housing costs element and restrictions on eligible rents for social rented sector tenants.

Where there are more than four joint tenants

The maximum number of joint tenants that can own a legal interest in land is four.[14]

When more than four individuals are named on a tenancy agreement, the first four tenants become trustees who hold the tenancy on trust for the others. The other tenants become beneficiaries.

In practice, it can be difficult tell which tenants are the first four joint tenants with a legal interest in the tenancy and which are beneficiaries. This is normally only an issue if there is a dispute between tenants.

The beneficiaries do not hold a legal interest. Their interest is held on trust, but they are protected by the legislation governing residential tenancies. For example, the Protection from Eviction Act 1977 and assured shorthold tenancies under the Housing Act 1988.

The rights and obligations of a beneficiary

A beneficiary is not automatically jointly and severally liable under the tenancy. This means they can be pursued only in respect of their individual part of the rent, or other individual obligation.

A landlord is likely to treat a beneficiary as liable if the tenancy agreement states they are jointly liable. A tenant who wants to argue they are not liable needs legal advice and representation.

How a beneficiary can end the tenancy

A beneficiary cannot serve a valid notice to quit to end a periodic joint tenancy, unless the trustees delegate the power to the beneficiary.

If there is no delegation, the beneficiary would need to apply to the court under the Trust of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996 for permission to serve a notice to quit.

A beneficiary might be able to leave a tenancy early if all other joint tenants and the landlord agree. The agreement of all parties could be a variation of contract.

As the beneficial joint tenant does not have a legal interest, a clear and unequivocal acceptance by all parties that they are no longer bound by the terms of the tenancy would release them from their obligations under the tenancy.

How a landlord can end the tenancy

A landlord must serve notice on one or all of the trustees to terminate a joint tenancy, not on a beneficiary.

Last updated: 12 December 2023


  • [1]

    Hammersmith and Fulham LBC v Monk [1991] UKHL 6; Doe d. Aslin v Summersett (1830) 1 B & Ad 135; s.45(3) Housing Act 1988.

  • [2]

    s.45(3) Housing Act 1988; unreported County Court case of Hacking v Jones (2012).

  • [3]

    Hammersmith & Fulham LBC v Monk [1991] UKHL 6; Greenwich LBC v McGrady (1983) 6 HLR 36, CA.

  • [4]

    Proctor v Proctor & Ors [2022] EWHC 1202 (Ch); Pile v Pile [2022] EWHC 2036 (Ch).

  • [5]

    Hounslow LBC v Pilling (1993) 25 HLR 305.

  • [6]

    Leek and Moorlands Building Society v Clark [1952] 2 QB 788.

  • [7]

    Lloyd v Sadler 1978 QB 774.

  • [8]

    para 6, Sch.1, and ss.1, 2, 3 and 28 Tenant Fees Act 2019.

  • [9]

    Hickin v Solihull MBC [2012] UKSC 39; Cunningham-Reid v Public Trustee [1944] KB 602.

  • [10]

    art.2 Housing (Tenancy Deposits) (Prescribed Information) Order 2007 SI 2007/797, as amended by s.30 Deregulation Act 2015.

  • [11]

    para 2, Sch.1 Tenant Fees Act 2019.

  • [12]

    p.39, Tenant Fees Act 2019: guidance for tenants, MHCLG, April 2019.

  • [13]

    Sturgiss & Anor v Boddy & Ors [2021] EW Misc 10 (CC).

  • [14]

    s.34(2) Law of Property Act 1925.