Advice Column: Student Housing

Monday 17th October

As part of the Citizens Advice Exeter and The Express and Echo weekly advice column this week we focus on student housing.

I am renting a house with my friends from University under a joint tenancy agreement. At the moment this is working out well, but what do I need to know if things go wrong?

Many students share private rented accommodation with other students because they often can’t afford to rent on their own. If you share accommodation, firstly it’s important to know how your tenancy is organised as it can have implications for other things.

Tenancy arrangements in shared accommodation can vary. One of the most common arrangements is a joint tenancy. This is one tenancy agreement which each student 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 may agree to occupy a particular bedroom and pay individual contributions towards the rent.

Your rights and responsibilities will vary depending on the type of tenancy arrangements. As you have a joint tenancy, you and the other tenants have exactly the same rights. You are all jointly and individually responsible for the terms and conditions of the tenancy agreement. This is called joint and several liability. 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 tenant is liable for their particular share.

So, 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 one joint tenant wants to leave during the course of a joint tenancy, and the other tenants want to stay, the options are to:
• find a replacement tenant who is acceptable to the remaining tenants and the landlord
• not find a replacement tenant, and either the outgoing tenant continues to pay their share of the rent, or the remaining tenants agree to make up the shortfall.

In either case, you’ll need to speak to your landlord first. They have to agree which change can go ahead and should end the existing joint tenancy and create a new one. However, in practice, it’s likely that the existing tenancy agreement will be amended by everyone signing and dating the variation to the agreement on the relevant date.

It’s worth bearing in mind that if you have a periodic tenancy, that is, one that runs from one rent period to another, one joint tenant can give notice to quit, and that would end the tenancy for all of the tenants. They can do this without the other tenants’ knowledge and consent. If you have a fixed term tenancy, for example, for twelve months, notice by one tenant will not end the tenancy.

If you have a problem with another tenant your landlord is unlikely to want to get involved and you’ll have to sort the problem out yourself. As joint tenants, you all have exactly the same rights, so one tenant can’t simply be forced to leave. An independent third party may be able to help you to resolve any difficulties, for example, a common friend, or someone at the student’s union.
For more information and advice go to or telephone Citizens Advice Exeter on 03444 111 444.

Look out for our column next week when we focus on support for council tax.

The information contained in these articles does not constitute advice. Citizens Advice Exeter and The Express and Echo accept no liability for the information published. Citizens Advice Exeter is unable to respond to individual requests for advice through these columns. Copyright Citizens Advice. For the most up-to-date information, please visit