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What to do when one tenant serves notice on a joint tenancy

Joint tenancies are becoming more popular. Not just in student accommodation or HMOs but also with friends or colleagues sharing a house or flat. Though couples in a relationship probably still account for most joint tenancies in the private rental sector. But whatever the dynamic there's little doubt many private landlords will rent their properties on a joint tenancy.

Why do renters like joint tenancies?

As we mentioned many joint tenants are in a relationship. But for others there are some advantages to having a joint tenancy:

Lower costs

Probably the biggest reason tenants share. Studies have shown many renters are using almost half their monthly income to pay the rent. In London some folk are paying more than 50% of their wages to their landlord. Understandably then sharing arrangements are becoming more popular. Especially among the young.

A joint tenancy will at least halve the rent. And that is a powerful motivation for anyone who is feeling the pinch financially.

But it isn't just the rent which becomes more affordable with a joint tenancy. There's a reduction in household bills. Including those unavoidable costs which eat into anyone's budget. Council tax and energy costs for example.


Joint tenants will split the security deposit between them. This makes it easier and more affordable to move into a new rental. And it's this convenience along with the lower costs which make joint tenancies especially appealing to young people.

Lower barrier to entry

A joint tenancy makes it easier for more renters to move into their own home. Those leaving their parents' home don't have to spend the time and cash to buy the gadgets, furniture and 101 others things they need to move into their first home. After all each housemate will be bringing their own possessions. So pooling and sharing everything means neither tenant needs to bring so much into the property.

Social benefits

For some groups of tenants, especially friends, there is a social aspect to joint tenancies. Knowing they will be sharing a home with people they know is a big positive for many renters who may be weary of living on their own.

Why would a joint tenant serve notice to quit?

The ideal scenario for a private landlord is that the fixed term of a joint tenancy passes without incident. When the contract is up all tenants leave at the same time. Sometimes though it doesn't quite work out like that.

Probably the most common reason for a joint tenant to serve notice is the breakdown of a relationship. Whether the tenants were life partners or friends if a relationship sours a parting of the ways is inevitable.

But there can be other reasons for a tenant looking to leave. Financial difficulties from losing a job or a drastic cut in hours for example. Or perhaps a change in family circumstances or a new job in another town. There are many reasons why a joint tenant would choose to serve notice.

What should you do when a joint tenant serves notice?

Probably the first thing you should do is make all the tenants aware of the consequences. That the notice to quit applies to all tenants not just one. And a tenant can't serve notice during the fixed term of the tenancy agreement. There are two exceptions to this of course:

  • You agree the tenants can surrender the property.
  • There is a break clause in the tenancy agreement.

There is also the reaction of the other tenant/s. Assuming the notice is valid, e.g. not submitted before the end of the fixed term, the notice applies to all tenants. If the other tenants are happy with this there is no issue. You need to simply concentrate on finding your next tenant/s for when the notice period expires.

However, if the other joint tenant/s want to remain in the property you have a decision to make. If the fixed term has ended you can agree to the remaining tenants signing a new agreement. They would then pay the rent between them. Remember they will have to pay a new security deposit. The tenancy then proceeds as normal.

If the fixed term isn't over you could opt to allow the other joint tenants to remain and take over the rent until the end of the agreement. Or you could allow them to bring in another person to replace the person who has served notice.

You may agree to this if the remaining person/s in the property have been exemplary tenants. There are advantages to this arrangement. You don't have the hassle of finding new tenants immediately and there is no interruption to your cash flow. It's for these reasons why private landlords may sometimes prefer to allow joint tenants to remain in the property when one of their number serves notice before the end of the fixed period of the tenancy agreement.

Private landlords can find tenants fast by listing their property with MakeUrMove the online letting platform bringing landlords and tenants together.

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