Splitting up or getting together – dealing with a tenant’s change in circumstance

When a tenant’s personal circumstances change, it may not occur to them to let their managing agent or landlord know, especially as it may be quite a stressful time. However, it is important for all parties to understand the implications of a change in the number or identity of people living in a rented property. For a landlord, it’s especially important to know exactly who is living in your property so that you can ensure that the let is fully legal and you are covered should anything go wrong.

One tenancy agreement, signed by two people

Usually, if a couple has moved into a property, they will both have been separately referenced and both will have signed the tenancy agreement as jointly and severally liable. Therefore, if one partner moves out:

  1. The person who is leaving must give notice that that intend to do so. If they don’t, they may be pursued for their rent.
  2. Each tenant has only been credit checked and referenced as being able to afford half the rent. If one remains in the property themselves, the agent or landlord has no confirmation that the whole rent is affordable for them. Therefore, the remaining tenant should only stay in the property if the landlord agrees.

One tenancy agreement, signed by one person

A tenancy agreement is likely to state that if anyone else stays in the property beyond what might be reasonably called a guest, the landlord’s permission must be sought. The new tenant should be added to the agreement, so that they are legally bound to live in the property according to the terms and conditions.

Importantly for landlords, if there is a Buy-to-Let mortgage on the property, it is likely to be a condition of that mortgage that whoever is living in the property has signed an Assured Shorthold Tenancy agreement. Additionally, it will almost certainly be a stipulation in your landlord insurance policy that all tenants have been referenced, so if you do not keep on top of who your tenants are, you may find your policy is void.

If it happens it may be that your tenant’s partner has moved in and is not on the agreement – perhaps the couple got together after the tenancy began - the second person is not a full tenant and has no legal rights over the property. So, if they split up and the partner wished to remain in the property, a new tenancy would have to be negotiated.

Administration costs

Obviously, when paperwork needs to be amended, new tenancies created and referencing carried out, costs are incurred. In this case, the tenant who has changed their relationship status during a tenancy should be held liable for all the administration costs.

The importance of periodic checks

Periodic checks are not only important for keeping an eye on the condition of the property and picking up any maintenance issues that the tenant might not have reported, but also for checking on exactly who is living in the property. A good agent will always check the addressees on any post lying around and, if there is only supposed to be one tenant, look out for any signs that someone else is living there – such as clothing or a second toothbrush in the bathroom.

If a relationship has ended, it is important to be sensitive to the situation and communicate accordingly with the tenant. Where your agent is managing the let, they should be experienced in dealing with such circumstances and be able to effect all the necessary administration with the minimum of fuss.

And, if you aren’t using a managing agent, then do check the legals of tenants moving in and out of your property with a lettings legal expert.

This information has been provided by our partner Mortgage Advice Bureau. For more information relating to Mortgages or for Mortgage Advice please visit Mortgage Advice Bureau.

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