You will usually have a joint tenancy if someone else's name is on the tenancy agreement as well as your own. This might be one other person or a number of people. Joint tenants have exactly the same rights and responsibilities as each other. You will not normally be able to leave the tenancy until the tenancy term has expired.
Type of tenancy
You will be a joint tenant if you and your housemates have all signed one agreement with your landlord. Your tenancy term will either be:
- a fixed term tenancy
- a periodic tenancy or
- a 6 month tenancy.
A fixed term tenancy is for a set period such as six months or one year. A periodic tenancy applies where you are not currently in a fixed term agreement and relates to the frequency of your rent payments. For example, if you pay your rent once a month you have a monthly periodic tenancy. If you did not agree a fixed term when you moved into the property, and your tenancy began after 1 April 2007, you are entitled by law to a minimum term of 6 months. After that you will become a periodic tenant, unless you sign a new tenancy agreement.
Joint fixed term tenancy
You can leave on the last day of the fixed term without telling your landlord, but it is best to do so, especially if you have paid a deposit. Check your tenancy agreement if you want to leave before the end of the fixed term. It may allow you to give notice and end the tenancy early. This is known as a 'break clause'.
If your tenancy agreement does not have a 'break clause' you can only leave early if your landlord agrees. Get this agreement in writing.
Joint periodic tenancy
You can end your tenancy by giving at least four weeks' notice to your landlord. You may have to give more notice if you've lived in the property for 5 years or more. You can only end the tenancy by giving less than four weeks' notice if the landlord agrees. Get this agreement in writing.
Joint 6 month tenancy
If your tenancy was granted after 1st April 2007 and is not fixed term in nature, a tenancy term of six months applies to it. This means that both you and the landlord will be tied to that tenancy for 6 months. After the 6 month period, your tenancy becomes periodic and you can end the tenancy by giving the right amount of notice in writing.
All joint tenants want to leave
You will continue to owe your landlord rent if you leave your tenancy early when you don't have the right to. Your landlord can take legal action to claim this rent money from you. The landlord can do this up to the time when you would have been able to end the tenancy:
- until the end of the term for fixed term tenants
- 4, 8 or 12 weeks for periodic tenants, depending on the length of time you've been living in the property
- until the end of the 6 months for default tenancy term tenants
However, your landlord will only be able to get this money from you if he or she hasn't let the property to another tenant during the period you were supposed to live there. If the landlord rents out the property, they can't charge both you and the new tenant rent.
If all the joint tenants have no choice but to leave early then the best way to avoid paying rent is to have someone else take over the tenancy. To avoid problems, your landlord should agree to the new tenants taking over, but does not have to. Your landlord will usually give the new tenants their own tenancy agreement. If the landlord doesn't accept the new tenant you may be able to negotiate to pay part of the rent you owe. For example, pay two months' rent if there are four months left on the agreement.
Only one joint tenant leaves
The tenancy will continue if only one joint tenants leaves without having the right to do this. You will only have the right to leave a joint tenancy early if your landlord agrees to this arrangement or if your tenancy agreemetn allows you to. Either way, there will probably be certain conditions attached. You may, for example, have to pay a penalty fee or find a new tenant to take over your share of the rent. You could also take legal action against the tenant who left to try to recover the rent he or she should have paid. You could do this through Small Claims Court.
If one of your housemates leaves the tenancy you and your other tenants may end up paying the missing rent if your tenancy agreement states that you are "jointly and severally liable". If you are not jointly and severally liable, the landlord will have to pursue the absent tenant for any unpaid rent.
If one of your flatmates serves notice to quit on the landlord and the landlord accepts this notice, this could threaten the entire tenancy. If one flatmate has done this, but the remaining flatmates wish to stay in the tenancy they should ask the landlord for a new agreement in their sole names. Get advice from Housing Rights if you are in this situation.
Landlord's rights if you leave before the end of the agreement
If you leave early without your landlord's agreement, your landlord can take court action to reclaim the rent. The court will decide whether you should pay your landlord the money or not. The landlord may also decide to keep some or all of your deposit if he's lost out financially because you left before the agreement was over.
Your landlord can try to rent out the property again. If your landlord rents out the property, he or she can't charge both you and the new tenants rent. You can try to find someone else to take over the tenancy. You could also try to negotiate with the landlord and pay some of the outstanding money or offer to put your deposit towards the cost of advertising the property.