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Dealing with tenants separating when one isn’t named on the tenancy

Tenants are often in a relationship as a couple. Unfortunately, relationships can break down with one tenant moving out. But if this happens where does it leave the landlord and the remaining tenant? In this article, we'll look at the various scenarios and how a relationship breakdown will affect all parties involved.

If a tenant not on the lease moves out

The whole issue of tenants in a relationship can be a tricky one for a private landlord. The only people living in the property should be the person(s) named on the tenancy agreement. In reality, of course, this is often not the case. A single tenant moves into the property and at some point, meets a new partner. The partner then moves into the property. Often without informing the landlord.

But even if the landlord is aware, some will allow the situation to continue. They’ll turn a blind eye if the rent is paid. Yet the tenant has broken their tenancy agreement by inviting another person to share their home. There are also insurance implications to this which we've discussed previously on this blog.

But what's the position if the new partner suddenly becomes the ex? And the named tenant remains in the property. In this instance, there really isn't an issue for the landlord to address. The person named on the tenancy agreement is still in residency and will presumably carry on paying the rent as normal. Though a quiet word in the tenant’s ear will be appropriate to try and prevent the same thing happening again.

However, there's one variation on the above scenario which may cause landlords some problems. It's far from uncommon for a person in a relationship to rent a property as a single tenant and move their partner in from day one. Usually, the pair doesn't rent as joint tenants because one may have financial problems or will fail to reference for another reason. But the pair lives as a couple and pools their resources to pay the rent.

In this case if the partner moves out the named tenant may not be able to afford the rent. This obviously then becomes an issue for the landlord. If arrears build up the landlord will have to take recovery action and evict the tenant. With the costs involved in this, the landlord stands to lose out financially. This is doubly exasperating as it was the tenant’s dishonesty which brought about the situation.

If the named tenant moves out

Now it becomes more complicated. If the relationship ends and the named tenant leaves the remaining person is in the property illegally. Of course, the tenant is still responsible for the rent whether they're living in the property or not. They may not realise this or even have considered it but they must still pay the rent. And risk losing their deposit if they don't.

But if this scenario does happen there are several possible outcomes.

  • The tenant gave proper notice to quit and their ex-partner also leaves the property.
  • The landlord takes legal action to remove the remaining occupant from the property while perusing the tenant for rent and costs.
  • The partner voluntarily leaves and the landlord peruses the tenant for rent and costs.
  • The landlord agrees to transfer the tenancy to the remaining occupant.
  • The remaining occupant applies for an occupation order. This is rare and occupation orders are only usually issued when there has been some kind of abuse in the relationship.
  • When a named tenant leaves a relationship and the property it causes inconvenience and often a financial loss for the landlord. The tenant too can suffer financial loss on top of the emotional upheaval.

    Joint tenants

    When joint tenants break up the situation is much clearer. If one tenant gives a valid notice to quit the tenancy ends and both tenants must move out. The landlord could agree to create a new sole tenancy if one of the former tenants wishes to remain in the property. This will, of course, require a new tenancy agreement. As well as another security deposit.

    Private landlords can find tenants fast by listing their property with MakeUrMove the online letting platform bringing landlords and tenants together.


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