Joint tenancies: 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

Joint tenants are all responsible for the total amount of rent in their tenancy agreement. This is sometimes called joint and several liability.

If one tenant does not pay their share the landlord can ask any or all other tenants to pay. The landlord can take legal action against any or all joint tenants to recover the money if the amount is not paid.

If a tenant moves out without ending their tenancy correctly they will still be responsible for paying rent. The landlord can ask them for the money or ask any remaining tenants to pay the owed amount instead.

Paying a deposit

You may be asked to pay a deposit if you are moving into private rented accommodation.

A deposit can be a maximum of two times the monthly rent amount.

At the end of the tenancy your landlord can make deductions for:

  • unpaid bills

  • unpaid rent

  • damage to the house or contents

They should not make deductions for fair wear and tear.

Your deposit must be protected in a deposit protection scheme if you don’t live with your landlord. The landlord has to register your deposit in a protection scheme within 30 working days of your tenancy beginning. If they fail to do this you could be entitled to compensation. Find out what to do if your deposit is not protected.

If you are replacing someone in an existing joint tenancy, it is better to pay the deposit money directly to the landlord and not to the tenant who is moving out. Paying the money directly to the landlord means that:

  • your deposit should be protected in a scheme

  • you should not have to pay for damage caused or money owed by the person who is moving out

Changing who is on the joint tenancy

You will need your landlord’s written permission if you want to give your joint tenancy to someone else. It is up to your landlord whether to agree to this.

If you rent privately then there is no legal requirement for the landlord to agree to give someone else your tenancy.

If you rent from a council or housing association your landlord cannot refuse without a good reason. Find out about changing who is on the tenancy if you rent from a council or housing association.

You will need written permission from the landlord if you want to take in a lodger. Find out about subletting or taking in a lodger.

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

The process for ending a joint tenancy will be different depending on your tenancy type.

Private residential tenancy

This applies to private tenancies that began after 1 December 2017 where you do not live with your landlord.

All tenants must agree to end a joint private residential tenancy. If only one person in a joint private residential tenancy wants to leave they cannot end the tenancy themselves.

To end one person's part of the tenancy the landlord can agree to end the current tenancy for all joint tenants. They would then issue a new tenancy for the remaining tenants.

The landlord can also allow you to pass your joint tenancy to someone else. They are not legally required to do this. It is the landlord’s choice whether to allow it. The landlord may ask you to find someone to take over your part of the tenancy.

When the landlord agrees to pass your tenancy to someone else they should issue a new tenancy agreement. This should have both the remaining tenants and the new tenant on it.

Ask the landlord to give you written confirmation that you are no longer on the tenancy.

Assured or short assured tenancies

This tenancy type covers most private tenancies that began before 1 December 2017 where you do not live with your landlord.

If one tenant ends the tenancy this applies to all tenants. As best practice your landlord should make sure that everyone has given their permission before agreeing to end the tenancy.

Find further information on how to end a tenancy correctly.

Eviction from a joint tenancy

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 or short Scottish secure tenancy, your landlord can evict one of you.

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

You'll need to write to the landlord to ask if you can become a joint tenant.

The current tenant must ask the council or housing association for you to be added as a joint tenant. There may be a form to fill in to become a joint tenant.

To qualify you must have lived in the home for at least 12 months. This 12-month period only begins when the council or housing association are told that you are living there.

Get advice if the council or housing association says you cannot take over the tenancy. Speak to a housing adviser at Shelter or a solicitor who specialises in housing law. This decision can sometimes be appealed, or even challenged in court.

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.

If you need to talk to someone, we’ll do our best to help. Get Help

Last updated: 15 June 2021

Housing laws differ between Scotland and England.

This content applies to Scotland only.

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