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Check your rights if you share accommodation

This advice applies to Wales

When you share accommodation, there are different rules depending on what type of contract you have. 

You might have one of the following types of contracts:

  • a joint occupation contract
  • a sole occupation contract
  • sub-letting or lodging 

If your written statement has the names of the people you live with, you have a joint occupation contract. If not, check what type of contract you have. 

Your rights and responsibilities will vary depending on whether you have a joint or sole occupation contract and whether you have a contract holder as your resident landlord.

If you live in a ‘house in multiple occupation’ (HMO), your landlord has extra legal responsibilities and may need a licence for the property. If you’re not sure whether you live in an HMO, check with your local council. 

Find out more about the safety standards for HMOs.

If you have a joint occupation contract

You and the other contract holders have exactly the same rights. You are all jointly and individually responsible for the terms and conditions of the written statement. This is called ‘joint and several liability’.

There is one written statement which each person in the property signs. You all share the property and its facilities and don’t have exclusive possession of any part, even though in practice you might agree to occupy a particular bedroom and pay individual contributions towards the rent. 

Paying the rent

You are liable for the rent both jointly and individually. This means that one or all of you can be held responsible for the whole rent. It’s not possible to argue that each contract holder is liable for their particular share.

If someone you live with doesn’t pay their share of the rent, the rest of you are responsible for making up the shortfall.

If you don’t make up the shortfall, you are all jointly and individually responsible for any rent arrears that build up. Your landlord could deduct money from the deposit, take action to evict you all or recover the debt from any one of you or a guarantor.

If you have a sole occupation contract

Each person in the property will have their own written statement because they each have exclusive possession of one specific room while sharing other facilities such as the kitchen. 

Paying the rent

If you have your own individual written statement then you are liable to pay the rent.

If you don’t pay your rent, your landlord may take action against you.

If other people you share your accommodation with don’t pay their rent, this won’t affect your contract.

If you sublet as a contract holder or lodger

In this situation, your landlord is the sole contract holder and only they have a direct relationship with the actual landlord, who is known as the ‘head landlord’.

The sole contract holder in the property signs the written statement and has a sole occupation contract. 

The sole contract holder lets rooms to others, either as:

  • sub-holders 
  • lodgers

Sub-holders have exclusive possession of at least one room in the property. Nobody can access this accommodation without their permission. Find out more about subletting.

Lodgers don’t have exclusive possession of a room and the landlord can enter the room without permission. Lodgers may also receive other services as part of the accommodation, such as meals and cleaning. Find out more about lodging.

Paying the rent

The sole contract holder is the only person who is legally liable to pay the rent to the head landlord.

However, as a sub-holder or a lodger you are likely to have an agreement with your landlord to pay rent. If you don’t pay them, they are likely to take action to evict you.

If your landlord’s contract ends

If your landlord’s contract ends after your sub-occupation contract has started, your contract should become an ordinary occupation contract. This will be between you and the head landlord. You should ask for a new written statement.

You shouldn't be held responsible for anything the former contract holder did.

Paying bills 

If only your name is on the utility bill, you're legally responsible for the whole of the bill until you end the contract. If your name is on the bill and someone else who lives with you won’t pay their share, you'll usually have to pay the bill and take legal action against them for the money.

If an account is set up using the names of everyone who lives in the property, the supplier can chase anyone for any outstanding debts even if you've already paid your share.

Find out more about paying energy bills if you live with other people.

Find out more about someone not paying their share of a TV, phone or internet bill.

Adding people to your contract

You'll need to get your landlord's permission to add a new person to your contract. You can only add them after your landlord agrees. The new joint contract holder will have the same rights and responsibilities as the current contract holders.

You should make the request to your landlord in writing, either by email or letter. Keep a copy and make a note of the date you sent it.

If your landlord agrees, they should add the new contract holder.

If your landlord doesn’t respond within 1 month, you can add the new person to the contract.

If your landlord needs more information before they make a decision, they should ask within 14 days. You might need to give them more information about your costs and how much space you have.

Talk to an adviser if the landlord asks for more information after the 14 day deadline.

After you’ve given them the information, they have 1 month to make a decision. If they don’t make a decision within 1 month, you can add the person to the contract. 

You might be able to challenge them if their decision is unreasonable, for example if they: 

  • refuse to add someone to the contract
  • agree to add someone to the contract but with unreasonable conditions

Talk to an adviser about challenging your landlord.

Removing people from your contract

One person can end their contract without affecting the other contracts. They will need to give the correct notice. 

If you’re having problems with someone you live with

You can try different things depending on the type of contract you have.

If you have a joint occupation contract

You might be able to apply to remove another contract holder from your contract, if:

  • you think they live somewhere else  
  • they’ve been behaving badly

This is called ‘exclusion’. Talk to an adviser to see if you can exclude a contract holder. 

Call the police if you don’t feel safe, for example if you’re being harassed or threatened.

If you have a sole occupation contract

It’s best to try and resolve any issues between yourselves.

If that’s not possible, you could raise the matter with your landlord. As you all have individual occupation contracts, your landlord could decide to take action against the contract holder concerned. If they did, it wouldn’t affect your contract.

Call the police if you don’t feel safe, for example if you’re being harassed or threatened.

If your partner makes you feel anxious or threatened, you should get help.

You can call Refuge or Women's Aid on 0808 2000 247 at any time.

Men's Advice Line is a charity that helps men suffering domestic abuse. You can call their helpline on 0808 801 0327 (9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday).

If you’re not sure what to do next, talk to an adviser.

Transferring your contract to someone else

To transfer your contract to another person, you must have the agreement of:

  • your landlord
  • the person you’re transferring the contract to
  • other joint contract holders if you have a joint occupation contract

Talk to an adviser if you want to transfer your contract.

Ending a contract

You need to give 4 weeks’ notice to end your occupation contract. You’ll need to give notice in the right way.

If you want to end the contract for everyone, you should all give notice. Each contract holder should write to the landlord to give ‘contract holder notice’. 

If you only want to end your contract, you can give notice without the agreement of the other contract holders. This will end the contract for you only. How you should end your contract will depend on the type of contract you have.

If you have a joint occupation contract

You should give a ‘withdrawal notice’. This is a 4 week notice to end your rights in the contract. You need to give a copy to your landlord and to all the other contract holders. 

If you have a sole occupation contract

You should give 4 weeks' notice to end your contract. You only need to write to the landlord.

If another contract holder is your landlord

If you want to end your sub-contract, you should give 4 weeks' notice to end your contract.

If someone you live with dies

When someone dies, what happens depends on the type of contract you have. 

If you have a joint occupation contract

If the occupiers are joint contract holders and one joint contract holder dies, the remaining joint contract holder will automatically inherit the whole of the occupation contract. It doesn't matter what's written in the person's will or what their relationship was with the other contract holder.

The only time this won’t happen is if the person has already arranged for their contract to be transferred after they die. This must have been done in the proper way. Talk to an adviser if you aren’t sure.

If you have sole occupation contracts

What happens to the occupation contract will depend on:

  • the type of occupation contract
  • whether someone is entitled to the occupation contract 
  • what it says in the will or in the intestacy rules
  • if the contract has been transferred or ‘assigned’ to someone else 

If the contract has been assigned to someone else, talk to an adviser.

If a lodger dies

If a lodger dies, their licence comes to an end as a licence is personal to an occupier and can't be passed on in any way.

Find out more about the rights of lodgers.

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