The United Kingdom has around eight million tenants and a significant portion of these are joint tenancies. They fall in an entirely different category from regular tenancies, so the rules can be different as well.
What are joint tenancies?
Joint tenancies are agreements created by and between two or more persons over the age of 18. They enter into it with one landlord and rented property for the same length or period of time. Typically, the maximum number of residents in a joint tenancy is four, but there can be additional residents, who are called beneficiaries instead of tenants. The main tenants are considered the trustees.
Even if there are two, three, or four of them, they are counted as a single tenant. They are responsible, as a group, for the rent and all other aspects contained in the tenancy agreement. Likewise, each one of them has equal rights and full access and use of the property. This is what is known as joint and several liability.
Most of the time, tenants discuss among themselves and reach a compromise on how they can divide the rent. Such an agreement is only among tenants and does not include the landlord. So, the landlord can ask any of the joint tenants to pay the shortfall, even those who have already contributed their share of the rent.
Apart from the rent, joint tenants also agree among themselves how they will pay the deposit. The deposit is considered one payment.
Joint tenants must agree on and appoint a lead tenant to represent them and communicate with the administrator for their deposit scheme.
Other responsibilities joint tenants share include rent arrears caused by any of the occupiers, and property damage caused by visitors or any of the residents.
Joint tenancy deposits
The Tenant Fees Act 2019 allows single deposits for joint tenancies. For tenancies with an annual rent less than £50,000, the deposit must be equivalent to at least five weeks’ worth of rent. If the yearly rent is over £50,000, joint tenants should give a deposit equivalent to six weeks’ worth of rent. If the amount is to be divided among tenants, an agreement must be made among the tenants and should not involve the landlord.
Once the tenancy ends, landlords are required to return or refund the deposit to the joint tenants. The occupiers agree among themselves how the refund is to be distributed. Some landlords, though, return the deposit according to how they received it, i.e. in lump sum or in several amounts or parts.
If there are special requests from the joint tenants, these should be discussed and finalised in advance and must be properly documented.
There have been incidents before where the landlord was not able to follow through with their responsibilities in returning the deposit, so it is vital for joint tenants to not only familiarise but also understand their rights and what their landlords are supposed to do.
Landlords’ responsibilities in protecting tenant deposits
There are three government protection schemes that landlords can use to protect joint tenancy deposits: MyDeposits, The Deposit Protection Service, and The Tenancy Deposit Scheme. These schemes are intended to prevent landlords from using the deposit for their personal needs and to ensure the money is safe all the way through the end of tenancy.
Landlords are expected to adhere to the following in ensuring the safety tenants’ deposit:
- Landlords should provide the protection scheme administrator with the name of every tenant indicated in the tenancy agreement.
- Landlords should also give their joint tenants a protection certificate and prescribed information copies. All information must be provided and should be correct. If there is a mistake or missing information, such as a misspelled name, the tenant must inform the landlord – and the landlord should then pass this on to the deposit protection scheme administrator.
- Landlords must appoint a replacement lead tenant if the original lead tenant has to leave. Additionally, when tenants want to change their lead tenant, they have to request their landlords to do so. All the joint tenants must agree with their landlords’ appointed new lead tenant.
Once a new lead tenant is assigned, landlords are expected to inform the protection scheme administrator right away. They should also provide the administrator with the name of the new lead tenant.
- If a tenant is leaving or being replaced, landlords are required to be present during the contract amendment or deed of assignment process between the old and incoming/new tenant. This is to ensure the deposit protection will still be valid.
- If the joint tenants have arrears, or if there is damage to the property, landlords are allowed to withhold the deposit (or a portion of it) even if only one tenant is responsible.
If your landlord has not protected your deposit
If you are in a joint tenancy and your landlord has not protected your deposit within 30 days after the tenancy started, you can file a tenancy deposit protection compensation claim. Work with a team of solicitors who offer a no win, no fee process, have no upfront payments, and is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.
The team of expert solicitors at Tenancy Deposit Claims is ready to help you. Enquire online about their services and you’ll get a reply in the next 48 hours.