Joint Tenancy Or Many Individual Tenancies?

Joint tenancy or individual tenancies?

It is a personal choice whether a landlord grants a single joint tenancy or multiple tenancies per room, and most landlords have their preferences. 

Below are some summarised pros and cons.

Single Joint Tenancy - Advantages

If one tenant leaves university during the term, the council tax exemption for students can be a problem. 

With a joint tenancy, the tenants will be jointly responsible for the council tax (assuming it is in the tenancy agreement), so it is not of concern to a landlord. 

If one tenant fails to pay the rent, the others must make the difference. 

The deposit will be treated as one deposit which means less paperwork and fewer deposits to register. 

Because the whole house becomes the demise, there are few common parts problems (see multiple tenancies below), and the tenants will always be under a duty to notify for repairs.

Single Joint Tenancy - Disadvantages

If one tenant is noisy, messy and fails to pay the rent when instigating possession proceedings by service of notices etc., a landlord must serve notice on all tenants, not just the one causing problems. 

Because students have a longer fixed term (between 10 or 12 months), if one student fails to pay the rent, it can take a long time before there are two months of arrears because the calculation is taken of the entire rent, not just the single student's portion. This makes it more challenging to serve a section 8 notice on the grounds of rent arrears. 

A landlord can not serve a two-month section 21 notice to expire before the fixed term expires.

Many single tenancies per room - Advantages

The landlord has complete control over each tenancy and can instigate possession proceedings for two months of arrears quicker if one tenant fails to pay the rent.

Many single tenancies per room - Disadvantages

The house will be deemed as a House in Multiple Occupation for Council Tax purposes (do not confuse this with the definition of an HMO under Housing Act 2004. The two are different definitions.) 

This results in the landlord always being liable for Council Tax, so if a student becomes no longer exempt, the landlord will still have to pay the council tax. 

Every deposit will have to be individually protected, which would mean a lot of paperwork and, if using one of the insurance schemes, very expensive! 

Further, the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 applies to this type of tenancy because there are 'common areas'. Therefore a fire risk assessment under the Order would have to be undertaken. 

In Edwards v Kumarasamy [2016] UKSC 40, it was said that where there are shared facilities, a landlord becomes immediately liable to repair any defect without any 'reasonable' time to have the works carried out once the item is out of repair. 

The same case further confirmed that there is no duty on the tenant to notify these shared facilities where they are not part of the tenancy (i.e. shared kitchen, bathroom etc.) This could cause a problem if somebody were injured, even if the landlord were unaware of any situation.

Guild opinion

On balance, the joint tenancy is probably best. Mainly because there is less paperwork, and it reduces council tax issues. Also, there are fewer fire risk assessments and potential repairing problems. 

However, just because we say that multiple tenancies have advantages too, and it is a very personal preference and often market-led.

View Related Handbook Page

Joint and Several Tenancies

Joint tenancies can be agreed upon with two or more people from the outset of the tenancy. Each can then be responsible jointly and severally (individually) for meeting the tenancy terms in full, including paying the rent. This is known as joint and several liability. Joint and several liability only arise where it is agreed upon. If nothing is agreed they will be jointly liable.