Letting to a couple? Essential information if they split
Who signed the tenancy agreement?
It’s essential that we or if letting yourself, you, carefully reference and credit check every person living in the property, then have them sign the tenancy agreement to confirm they are jointly and severally liable for the rent. What this means is if one half of a couple leaves without giving you a forwarding address, it is still possible to pursue the remaining tenant for the full rent.
What happens if only one person signed the tenancy agreement?
If the partner who signed the agreement decides to leave and the other person wants to stay:
1. The leaving tenant must give notice to the agent/landlord and is still liable for the rent for that period, and
2. The partner who is not named on the agreement may well have no legal right to stay in the property.
So you have two options: either reference the person who wants to stay and accept them as a tenant or ask them to leave. If they’ve been good tenants, it’s probably worth having a conversation and trying to find a solution that works for you both. But if you decide to go down that road, do make sure you reference them as soon as possible.
If you’re happy to keep them on, you can either transfer the existing tenancy agreement into their name or start a new tenancy. It might be an emotional time for them, so be considerate - but make sure you don’t put yourself at risk of being out of pocket.
Note: The remaining partner can apply to a court for an ‘occupation order’, which would give them the right to stay in the property. However, courts don’t often issue them and the cost of obtaining the order can run to several thousand pounds, so you’re highly unlikely to find a tenant actually pursuing one.
What happens if the tenants split within the initial fixed term?
Unfortunately for them, if they’ve signed a tenancy agreement for a fixed term (generally the first six months of an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST)), your tenants are liable for the rent for the whole period, regardless of what’s happened to their relationship.
That being said, if tenants are unhappy in their contract, it’s often best to try to find a compromise. For example, if neither partner wants to stay in the property, you could advertise for a new tenant right away and agree that as soon as one is found, you’ll release them from their obligation.
If things get abusive or aggressive between the tenants, it is possible to evict them by issuing a Section 8 Notice to leave (likely to be on grounds 12 and 14 (schedule 2 of the Housing Act 1988, as amended). Although you might be sympathetic if one person is being bullied by another, it’s usually in your best interests as a landlord to simply ensure the existing tenants leave and new ones move in.
One of the critical pieces of advice we give at times like this is to try to maintain a good relationship with both tenants, which is not always easy. Something that can help is if we are managing your property full time, we carry out periodic visits to check the condition of the property and while doing so, it enables us to understand who’s living there and any changes so we can address any potential issues as soon as possible.
For example, if we thought there was only one tenant and then found evidence of another person living there, we’d bring it up with the tenant right away. It might be something as simple as they moved their partner in and didn’t realise they were supposed to tell us. In that case, we’d look to reference and put the partner on the tenancy agreement as a matter of good practice and to protect the landlord.
If you’re at all concerned about your tenants’ personal situation or we don’t currently manage your property and you’d like to find out more about what we do, pop into your local Your Move branch or contact us through our website >