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What to do about a co-tenant who fails to pay rent

housesHere is a question to the blog clinic from Sophie who is a tenant:

My household has been served with a section 21 which having read your advice on this issue seems to be served correctly.

There are currently 5 of us living in the rented accommodation and one person has not paid rent for the last 2 months and as it turns out they never signed a contract or paid the deposit.

As we are on a group contact this means all of us are being evicted. The 4 of us who pay rent on time every month want the tenant who doesn’t pay to move out. Is there anything we can do as tenants to evict him? And is it likely that the landlord will take our deposits to cover for the lack of payment on his half?

This is an example of why you need to be very careful who you have as a co-tenant.  When you all sign a tenancy together you are all effectively signing as guarantees for each other.  As the landlord can (if he wishes) claim all of the rent from each of you separately or from all of you together.

This is known as joint and several liability.

The bad news is that the landlord will have the right to claim the unpaid rent from the deposit.  However there may be some good news.

You say that the non paying person never signed the tenancy agreement or paid any deposit.  It is possible therefore that he may not be a tenant at all.  The right answer will depend largely on what actually happened at the time the tenancy was entered into and why he did not sign the contract.

However one option is that he is actually a lodger of the tenants who signed the tenancy agreement.  If this is the case, then YOU are all his landlords rather than the property owner.  In which case you will have the right to evict him without getting a court order if you follow the proper procedure.

I discuss this in my Lodger Landlord site.

If you are able to get him to leave, then speak to your landlord.  He may be amenable either to signing a new tenancy agreement with all of you and a new replacement tenant (one who will pay), or letting you have another person living in the property as a lodger.

I suspect that all your landlord wants is to have his full rent paid promptly.  So long as this is done, and there are no other problems, he will almost certainly prefer to have you stay that have the bother of having to find new tenants.

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One Response to What to do about a co-tenant who fails to pay rent

  1. Yes if the errant one is not a co-tenant then the notice will be invalid too.

    Good ideas from Tessa near the end, but I fear thew LL will only enter into a new agreement with the other 4 of you if you make up the rent he is missing.

    Point is though why would you need to enter into a new agreement – the existing one with the 4 names on is valid anyway. What isn’t is the notice naming 5 of you



About the post author:

Tessa Shepperson

Tessa is a lawyer and specialises in creating products and services which help landlords and letting agents learn and understand landlord & tenant law. For example, she runs the Landlord Law website (now in its 14th year) and is a director of Easy Law Training Ltd and Your Law Store. Tessa also sits on the Property Redress Scheme Council. When not working she enjoys reading, cooking and messing around on the computer. You can also find her on Google

The Landlord Law Blog from Tessa Shepperson

Tessa is an English lawyer specialising in residential landlord and tenant law.

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Legal services are provided via Tessa's online service Landlord Law. Some advice services are provided by Tessa, other legal services are provided by specialist housing firm Anthony Gold.


The purpose of this blog is to provide information, comment and discussion. Although Tessa, or guest bloggers, may from time to time, give helpful comments to readers' questions, these can only be based on the information given by the reader in his or her comment, which may not contain all material facts. Any comments or suggestions provided by Tessa or any guest bloggers should not therefore be relied upon as a substitute for legal advice from a qualified lawyer regarding any actual legal issue or dispute.

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