It might not be the first topic you’ll want to discuss over a candle-lit dinner, but understanding the legalities around cohabiting is important for your peace of mind and security. We outline the necessary guide to knowing your rights when living with your partner in a flatshare.
Joining an existing tenancy agreement
It’s essential to check with your landlord that it’s okay for your partner to move in, or vice versa. An addition to the household may mean changes to the status of the property, turning it into a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO). It’s then the landlord’s obligation to ensure certain standards and obligations are met; a change in status may require them to pay registration fees and make improvements or adjustments. It’s within their rights to refuse and you may be breaking your tenancy agreement if your partner moves in without permission.
If subletting is cleared, the owner of the property is known as the ‘head landlord’. To class as a resident or live in landlord, a person doesn’t need to own the property, simply to have it as their main accommodation and to have access from their accommodation to yours. In this situation, you become a lodger at your partner’s place and they become the ‘landlord’ in the eyes of the law, unless the arrangement is one that doesn’t involve paying rent. In this circumstance, you can be evicted with ‘reasonable notice’, which should be 28 days but in reality can be less. If you want to make the arrangement more formal and secure equal rights, look to renegotiate a joint tenancy agreement with the owner of the property that has both your names on it, or to have your own separate tenancy agreement with the head landlord.
Starting a new tenancy agreement
If you’re looking to move into a new property together and start a tenancy agreement, consider whether having joint or separate agreements is better for you. Either way, having your name on a tenancy agreement is going to give you much more security. Having both of your names on the contract ensures both of you have equal rights to live in the property, and responsibility to keep to the terms of the agreement. If there’s only one name on the contract and the named person leaves, the other can request that the landlord puts their name on the tenancy.
Liability for rent falls to whoever has their name on the tenancy agreement. With both of your names on a joint agreement, should one person not be able to pay, the other is responsible for meeting the full payment. This is also the case for your roommates as multiple occupants of a shared tenancy. Also, in the event of any damages or overdue rent, your landlord is within their rights to pursue either one of you. Signing separate tenancy agreements may seem less romantic, but it’s a viable option. It will mean each one of you is individually responsible for paying the rent. It also means that should one of you want to move out, it won’t affect the other’s tenancy, though the remaining person may have to find a new roommate.
Joint liability/shared tenancy means your landlord is within their rights to evict you both should one person not be meeting their contribution. With other bills involved in a house share, it’s the person who requests the utility connection that is liable to meet the full bill. Even if they move out, they can still be liable for payment. Having the account in both of your names means you are equally responsible.
Getting out of a tenancy agreement
Should your relationship end and one of you wants to move out, it may mean a break in your tenancy agreement for both of you. Make sure you know the particulars of your contract before you move in. It may be that you are able to renegotiate your rent with your landlord. If one of you leaves before the duration of your contract is complete, it can mean forgoing your deposit or bond payment.
Living together may be an exciting prospect, but make sure you and your partner take the time to consider what steps you’re going to take to ensure both of you are safe, happy and secure in your tenancy arrangement. Make sure that everything is clear, fair and in writing.