Understanding Responsibilities in Joint Tenancies
There is often confusion amongst tenants about who is responsible for what when they share a property with their friends. Other than in specific cases, such as university halls of residents or a property which is being rented out on a specific room by room basis, the vast majority of group tenancies in Scotland sign up to a Short Assured Tenancy Agreement.
This type of agreement means that all tenants are 'jointly and severally' liable for the property, including payment of rent and dilapidations or any damage caused. In short, the Landlord is able to pursue any one of the tenants for rent or other costs regardless of which individual tenant may be responsible. It is vitally important that tenants realise the implications of this and ensure they choose their friends carefully as they could be asked to bankroll flatmates who abscond or refuse/cannot pay their fair share.
Any disagreements with flatmates should be sorted out between the tenants themselves as it is not the landlord's responsibility to get involved. However, if there are major issues, it is always worth letting the landlord or agent know as they may be able to offer advice or a solution.
Depending on the problem, disagreements can often be sorted by good communication and the first step is always to discuss the situation and be upfront with one another about the issues. Often, problems stem from fairly minor things such as washing-up or loud music and if the offending parties realise they are upsetting their flatmates they will usually modify their behaviour, especially if it can be discussed calmly and rationally early on rather than leaving to a time when anger and frustration starts to cloud the issue.
Student tenants, usually without a large income, are generally required to provide a guarantor who is asked to pay the rent or others costs in the even that they are not paid to the landlord. Understandably, there is often concern from the guarantors that they are, in theory, guaranteeing rent for the whole flat rather than their own children because the landlord can sue any party to the agreement to recover losses under the joint and several liability as previously discussed.
The key point is for all parties involved to make sure they are comfortable with the friends they are moving in with. Parents or guarantors should ask questions of their offspring to ensure they know enough about their future flatmates. Finally, make sure the landlord or letting agent is asking for a guarantor for each tenant so as to minimise individual risk.