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Joint Tenancy Agreements - Your Rights and Responsibilities

If you and your flatmates or housemates have a joint tenancy agreement, you will all have exactly the same rights and responsibilities. This means you are all equally responsible for paying the rent and keeping to the terms of your tenancy agreement. If you have disagreements, you are responsible for sorting them out between yourselves. Only in extreme cases will the landlord or anyone else get involved.

Paying rent

As joint tenants, you are all jointly and individually responsible for paying the rent. If one tenant moves out without giving notice or is not paying their share, you will be responsible for paying it for them. If none of you pay your rent, your landlord can pursue any of you and ask you to pay the full amount. In practice, they'll probably go after the person who is easiest to find or who has the most money and is more likely to pay. You will also be jointly and individually liable for paying any arrears, even if you personally were not responsible for them.

Paying a deposit

If you are moving into private rented accommodation, you will need to pay a deposit. This is usually equivalent to one month's rent. Your landlord may be entitled to keep your deposit once the tenancy is over if there is any rent owing or any damage has been done to the property. This applies even if you did not cause the damage yourself.

When you move into a shared flat, make sure you only pay the deposit directly to the landlord or letting agency. If you are replacing another tenant who is moving out, they may ask you to pay the deposit to them instead. This isn't a good idea, because if the tenant who is moving out has caused any damage to the property or left any unpaid bills, this money will come out of your deposit and you won't get it all back when you move out.

Making changes to the tenancy

You will need to get the other joint tenants' written permission if you want to:

  • carry out improvements to the property
  • take in a lodger
  • pass on (assign) your tenancy to someone else.

Remember, you will also need your landlord's permission to do any of these things. Bear in mind that the landlord might not know that the other tenants need to give their consent.

If the other tenants refuse permission unreasonably, you can take the matter to court. Get advice from a solicitor if you are considering this course of action.

Ending the tenancy

I rent from the council, a housing association or housing cooperative

If a joint Scottish secure tenant wishes to leave, they must give the other tenants and the landlord four weeks' notice in writing. This will not affect the tenancies of the remaining tenants, which will continue as usual.

I rent from a private landlord

If one tenant wants to end the tenancy, they will need to get the other joint tenants' permission first, because this will end the tenancy for everyone. Your landlord should make sure that everyone has given their permission before agreeing to end the tenancy. However, they may not realise this, and may end the tenancy at the request of one tenant.

If the other tenants don't want to move out, they can try to negotiate a new agreement with the landlord. For example, you may be able to arrange for:

  • another person to take on the tenancy of the person who wants to leave, or
  • you and any other joint tenants to stay on and pay the extra rent yourselves.

In this case, your landlord ought to give you a new tenancy agreement, listing the new tenants and how much rent each of you will pay. In practice, your landlord might not bother to do this.

If another person takes on the tenancy, the tenant who is leaving will need to assign their share in the tenancy to them. The new tenant will then need to sign the tenancy agreement with the landlord.

However, as long as your landlord knows that the new tenant is living there and is accepting rent from them, they should have the same rights as a tenant whose name is on the tenancy agreement.

Eviction

I rent from the council, a housing association or housing cooperative

If you and your flatmates are joint tenants and have a Scottish secure tenancy (SST) or short Scottish secure tenancy (SSST), your landlord can evict one of you (for example, because of antisocial behaviour or rent arrears) without evicting you all. Evicting one tenant will not affect the tenancies of the remaining joint tenants.

Find out more about eviction if you have an SST or SSST.

I rent from a private landlord

Your landlord cannot evict one joint tenant without evicting all of you. However, if only one tenant is causing a problem, your landlord may decide to offer a new tenancy to the other tenants after ending the original agreement. 

Find out more about eviction if you're a private tenant.

How do I become a joint tenant?

I rent from the council, a housing association or housing cooperative

If you rent from the council, a housing association or housing cooperative and have a Scottish secure or short Scottish secure tenancy, you'll need to write to your landlord to ask if you can become a joint tenant. Your landlord will have to agree to this, unless they have a very good reason not to. The law doesn't specify what a 'good reason' is, so you may be able to appeal if you think your landlord is being unfair.

I rent from a private landlord

If you rent from a private landlord, it will be up to your landlord to decide whether or not to make you a joint tenant. They are under no obligation to do so.

Problems with joint tenancies

If you have a problem with another joint tenant, the landlord will usually be reluctant to get involved, although council or housing associations are more likely to get involved than private landlords. The page on problems with housemates looks at ways of resolving any difficulties you may have sharing a home, including what to do if a tenant refuses to pay their way.

Scotland map Housing laws differ between Scotland and England.
This content applies to Scotland only.
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The important points

  • Joint tenants are jointly and individually responsible for paying the rent. If one tenant moves out without giving notice or is not paying their share, you will be responsible for paying it for them.
  • If you rent from a private landlord and one tenant wants to leave, then they have to seek permission from the other tenants in the house.
  • If a joint Scottish secure tenant wishes to leave, they must give the other tenants and the landlord four weeks' notice in writing.
  • When you move into a shared flat, make sure you only pay the deposit directly to the landlord or letting agency.

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