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Your rights if you have a joint tenancy

A joint tenancy is when you sign the same tenancy agreement with one or more other people. If you're not on the same agreement, you might have separate tenancies.

You can sign a joint tenancy with a partner, family member or flatmate. There's no limit to how many people can be on a joint tenancy.

Becoming a joint tenant

If you move into a new home with other tenants, you may be asked to sign a joint tenancy agreement.

The landlord might insist you sign a joint tenancy for their convenience. If you can, decide on whether to have a separate or joint tenancy. Discuss it with whoever you're moving in with.

If you get a separate tenancy, it’s easier to end it when only one of you wants to move out.

If you’re moving into an existing joint tenancy

Make sure you get the landlord’s agreement in writing. You do not need to sign a new tenancy agreement, but you should sign a document saying you have become a tenant. This is called assigning the tenancy.

Pay your rent and deposit directly to the landlord so there are no misunderstandings. This way your landlord has to protect your deposit.

If you need to pay your deposit to an outgoing tenant, ask your landlord to confirm in writing:

  • where your deposit is protected

  • how it’ll be returned at the end of the tenancy

  • that they’ll update the deposit details so your name is on it

If you’re moving into an HMO property

If you’re moving in with 2 or more flatmates, the property should usually be a house of multiple occupation (HMO).

Your home must meet certain standards and your landlord must have an HMO licence.

Check our guidance on your rights in an HMO.

Paying rent

In a joint tenancy, everyone is equally responsible for all the rent. This means if one person cannot pay, the landlord can ask the other tenants to pay the debt.

You can decide how to split the rent. If you decide not to split it equally, write an agreement and sign it so there are no misunderstandings.

If you have a separate tenancy, you will not be responsible if another tenant does not pay their share of rent. You're only responsible for the rent in your tenancy agreement.

Paying a deposit

If you pay a deposit, it should usually be protected in a tenancy deposit scheme.

When your landlord protects the deposit, they can either:

  • give contact details for all tenants

  • nominate one lead tenant and give their contact details

All tenants should be told which scheme is protecting the deposit.

If a lead tenant is nominated, the deposit scheme will contact them at the end of the tenancy. The money will be returned to them, and they should split it between you.

Check our advice on deposits

If the lead tenant does not pay you when you move out

Ask the scheme to confirm when the money was returned.

Write to the lead tenant, asking them to return your money. Give them a deadline to return it by. You’ll need to show that you tried to resolve it before going to court.

If they still do not return it, you can claim the money back in court. You can use a process called simple procedure to claim up to £5,000. For advice on how to apply, check Citizens Advice guidance on simple procedure.

Adding someone to a joint tenancy

Depending on who you rent your home from, you may be able to change who is on the tenancy agreement.

If you rent from the council or a housing association

Anyone over 16 can become a joint tenant after they’ve lived with you for 12 months. The 12 months only starts when you tell your landlord in writing that they’ve moved in.

Write to your landlord to add a joint tenant. They can only refuse if they have a good reason.

If you rent from a private landlord

You do not have the automatic right to add or remove a joint tenant.

Ask your landlord's permission if you want to add a joint tenant or replace a tenant who's moving out. Get any agreements in writing so there are no misunderstandings.

Ending a joint tenancy

How to end a joint tenancy depends on who you rent your home from and what type of tenancy you have.

If you rent from the council or a housing association

If all joint tenants want to leave, you must all give notice.

If only one person wants to leave, they can give their own notice. Any remaining tenants will continue the tenancy.

If you have a private residential tenancy

If all joint tenants want to leave, you must all give notice. This can be done by:

  • signing the same written notice and posting it to your landlord

  • signing the same written notice and emailing a photo or scanned copy to your landlord

  • each tenant sending their own notice by email, making sure the notice expires on the same day

If you're the only person who wants to leave, you cannot give your own notice. You can ask your landlord's permission to sign your part of the tenancy over to the remaining tenants or a new tenant.

Get any agreement in writing, so that there are no misunderstandings.

If you're having problems getting out of a joint tenancy, get advice from a Shelter Scotland adviser.

If you have an assured or short assured tenancy

If one person gives the landlord notice, this ends the contract for everyone.

This does not mean the other tenants have to leave. They still have a right to live in the property. They'll have to start paying your part of the rent, or come to an agreement with the landlord about getting a new tenant.

If you're the only person who wants to leave, talk to the other tenants before sending your notice.

Check our advice on how to end your tenancy correctly.

Being evicted from a joint tenancy

Your landlord must follow strict rules if they want to evict you. They must give you a valid eviction notice that says why they want to evict you.

If you rent from the council or a housing association

Your landlord can choose to evict one joint tenant or all joint tenants.

Check our guidance on eviction if you rent from the council or a housing association.

If you rent from a private landlord

Usually the landlord will end the tenancy for everyone.

If they only want to evict one person, they can end the tenancy, then set up a new agreement with the remaining tenants.

Check our guidance on:

If you’re worried about eviction from your home, contact a Shelter Scotland adviser.

They’ll help you understand your rights and work out your next steps.

Being forced out of your home

You cannot be forced out of your home, either by your landlord or by someone you live with.

Check our guidance on:

Last updated: 1 November 2023

Housing laws differ between Scotland and England.

This content applies to Scotland only.

Get advice if you're in England