Joint Tenancy: Protection Against Eviction When Sharing Accommodation

What is joint tenancy?

This would normally refer to a group of people sharing the tenancy of a certain property.

There are two ways to speak of joint tenancy.

One, is this sharing of accommodation is, more often than not, arranged in such a way that all are equally responsible for the obligations of tenancy. In this case, the persons in the joint tenancy arrangement are known to each other and are actually signing as one.

Another form of Joint tenancy or shared accommodation is also used to refer to a so called HMO or house in multiple occupations. In this arrangement, the tenants live together but they are not related or known to each other. In this case they are not jointly responsible for the obligations of the other tenants.

What are the implications of such arrangements for payments due to the landlord?

Both situations create a bit of difficulty on the landlord’s side.

In the case where each tenant is responsible, it can be argued that fees can be charged on one (usually the easiest to find) for the account of all.

But this introduces the concept of fair play where it certainly is not fair to hold and punish those who have been paying their share, for the non-payment of others. While legally there may be some remedies for the landlord, going after the paying ones is not usually a good option.

Moreover, since only one contract was signed for all, then the landlord cannot evict just one. All must be evicted in this case and this can bring about a long string of problems for the landlord.

If the tenants give their payments at different times, this can also be a source of headache for the landlord of a joint tenancy under one contract. This is because the acceptance of payment from one or some may be seen as the acceptance of the rent, however little it may be.

In the case of a house in multiple occupation, the landlord may in fact be in a better situation since they could evict a single one since multiple contracts are signed. However, this may introduce other special problems as bringing in an unknown tenant in such a house in multiple occupation, which may result to domestic problems which could have serious repercussions. It also makes it more difficult to determine who is responsible for what since all are considered independent of each other.

Is there a better arrangement for the tenants?

It really depends on the tenants themselves. Whilst initially it may seem as though the better solution is for the joint tenants to each be solely responsible for their own share.  The domestic problems and the question of accountability remains a big concern.

All things considered, it may still be better to have one single contract for all since it would definitely make it harder to get evicted. After all, if the landlord has one house with 8 renters and only one or two non payers, it would be extremely impractical to attempt to evict all because the partial payments of the other tenants will surely count for something when it goes to court.

Furthermore, the prospect of losing all 8 just because of 1 or 2 bad apples is one that may be unacceptable to most landlords particularly in today’s economically challenged times.

What is an ideal arrangement for both tenant and landlord?

It would not do at all to have situation that is heavily biased in favour of the tenant. So what would be a good alternative that can take the best of both scenarios?

Perhaps, an agreement can be signed with each tenant which makes them responsible for their own dues. The tenant can then be assigned their room with a clear definition about what the common areas are. Then there can be provisions regarding the accountability of each one for the common areas. This would ensure that each one would be looking after the other in this respect. In effect, you have an arrangement with each one for the rent, but with a contract that binds all to certain provisions.

A further addition to this would be to require that in the event that a tenant leaves and new ones must be taken in, then the prospective tenant must be acceptable to both landlord and tenant. This ensures that the dangers of interpersonal conflict are reduced. It further ensures that the tenants get off on the right foot since they would have to break the ice and know the prospective tenant prior to their acceptance. On the part of the landlord, it also gives him some degree of comfort in knowing that the tenants have been consulted and cannot hold him solely responsible for the actions of the new tenant.

Would this arrangement affect the eviction process?

Yes it definitely would affect the process. After all, a contract that is signed individually means that it is easier for the landlord to evict those one or two bad apples. It no longer has to be the all or nothing proposition that a single contract brings.

But for the tenants, they must keep in mind that the truth of the matter is that in reality; it is not that easy to evict tenants in the UK. That is regardless of whether it is a single contract for all tenants or a contract with each one.

Tenants are given a lot of rights and protection under the law. In that law, the landlord is explicitly forbidden to antagonise the tenants. Moreover, the law is very strict in prohibiting acts that can inconvenience or affect the living conditions of the tenants.

They are given substantial legal relief in the event that the landlord attempts tactics such as disconnecting electricity, gas, water and other basic utilities.

Moreover, there are very strict laws regarding eviction and the manner thereof so most landlords would rather attempt conciliation outside the courts than go through a process that may cost them more than the original debt.

Furthermore, it must be pointed out that unless you share accommodations with your landlord, you cannot be evicted without a court order.