How to handle tenant's break ups
It’s worth knowing if you let your property to a couple, what you need to consider to make sure a future break up doesn’t impact badly on your rental returns.
Who is included on the tenancy agreement?
Every person living in the property should sign the tenancy agreement, confirming they are jointly and severally liable for the rent. That means credit checking and referencing each tenant to ensure that they can afford the whole rental payment. Then, if one leaves and you can’t trace them, it is still possible to legally pursue the remaining tenant for the full rent.
What if only one person signed the agreement?
If the partner who signed the agreement decides to leave and the other wants to stay, there are two things you need to know:
1. The departing tenant has to give you the required notice and is still liable for the rent for that period, and
2. The partner who is not named on the agreement does not have any legal rights to stay in the property.
So you can 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 and are simply victims of the relationship not working out, have a conversation and try to find a solution that works for you both, but do reference them as soon as possible.
You can then either transfer the existing tenancy agreement into the remaining partner’s name or have them start a new tenancy. Given that it’s likely to be an emotional time for both tenants, be considerate but make sure you don’t put yourself at risk of being out of pocket.
You should be aware that the remaining partner can apply to a court for an ‘occupation order’ giving 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 the likelihood of a tenant pursuing one is very low*.
What happens if a couple separates within the initial fixed term?
Regardless of what happens to their relationship, if a tenancy agreement has been signed for a fixed term (generally the first six months of an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST)), the tenants are liable for the rent for the whole period. That being said, the best way forward is often to compromise so, if neither partner wants to stay in the property, for example, advertising for a new tenant right away and agree that as soon as one is found, they can be released from the agreement.
If you become aware of any abusive or aggressive behaviour between the tenants, a notice to leave can be issued via a Section 8 Notice (likely to be on grounds 12 and 14 (schedule 2 of the Housing Act 1988, as amended).
We find that keeping contact regularly is essential during this difficult time for the tenants and, together with our periodic inspections, it means we can carry out checks on the property’s condition as well as assess how the tenants are living and address any potential issues as early as possible.
For example, if we believed there was only one tenant and then we found evidence of another person living there, we would discuss this with the tenant right away - it might be that they moved their partner in and simply didn’t realise they were supposed to inform anyone. In that case, we would look to reference and put the partner on the tenancy agreement, both as a matter of good practice and to protect the landlord.
If you have any concerns about your tenants’ personal situation or we don’t currently manage your property and you would like to find out more about what we do, pop into your local Reeds Rains branch or contact us via our website