What to do if joint tenants separate or divorce

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    What to do if joint tenants separate or divorce

    I have a house rented on a standard AST to the same tenant since 2016. He has rented at other properties of mine on a single room basis for maybe 10 years prior and is a decent guy and very reliable. He is a Latvian and in 2017 he married a lady from Ukraine. He adopted his wife’s son and all 3 have settled status in UK post brexit. When the wife arrived in UK a few months after the wedding the tenant asked for a new tenancy in joint names. Although the wife has work she has never contributed much to the household expenses and this has been a source of friction which has built to the point where they are essentially separated but living in the same house. They are not in arrears, he has always paid promptly and there was no deposit paid at the start of the tenancy. The original tenant is now pursuing divorce, this has lead to a number of questions.
    1. Will I now issue separate house share AST’s and collect half the rent from the wife? My reply was no and I explained the concept of them being jointly and severally responsible for the rent, also I would have to get the wife’s agreement which would not likely be forthcoming or serve them both notice of the change and offer the new arrangement which the wife would probably contest.
    2. When the divorce comes through (the marriage was in Ukraine and the tenant’s Latvian solicitor suggests it can be easily achieved!?) will I reissue an AST in his name only so he can force her out. I replied that I don’t think I can do that without the wife’s agreement and even if I did and I served her notice she would resist and stay put. She is also likely to escalate her allegations of domestic abuse. She called the police the other evening because he became angry and shouted at her (forgets to mention that she was screaming at him first!) the police asked him the leave the house for the night on the basis of safeguarding the minor (16) living in the house. He says all she has to do is start an argument and call the police and she can get him out of the house any time she wants!
    3. In light of the above he asks if he served me notice to quit and leave the property could he do so without ongoing liability for the rent, in other words does the joint tenancy endure in the case of one of the tenants wishing to leave or is the landlord forced to allow it to be dissolved and have the tenancy devolve to the remaining tenant. Can the tenants act separately or are they bound by the Joint nature of the tenancy to act together? The AST has a 6 month Fixed period and in the event of not being renewed (which it hasn’t) becomes periodic, I am assuming that they would be bound to act together during the fixed period but that once the AST becomes periodic, they would be free to individually do as they please (but continue to be jointly and severally responsible for any arrears, which is not currently the case
    4. Finally, if one of the joint tenants give notice and leaves does the tenancy inevitably devolve to the remaining one or does the landlord have any choices here? To be fair to the original tenant he is concerned that if he leaves then his wife (or ex wife) will not be able to afford the rent and he does not want to leave me in the situation of having to regain possession and pursue rent arrears through the court. Do I have a choice at that point to do an affordability assessment and if I wish serve notice on the remaining tenant at the same time as her husband serves notice on me.
    Apologies for the complexity of this situation, I have been renting property for many years and I have dealt with tenants as individuals and as couples (partners and sharers) but not had the situation where the joint tenants do not act cooperatively!?

    As I say I trust and respect the original tenant and both he and I would prefer an outcome where he retains sole tenancy and the wife and son find alternate accommodation, or at the very least, that they all go away and regain possession of the property cleanly! I can see the potential for things to get messy!

    If the tenancy is joint and several, and it's in a periodic tenancy, one tenant can serve notice and that ends the tenancy for both of them. So you don't have to serve notice on anyone if you don't want to.
    That bit is simple.

    The issue you will then face is that neither of them or one of them won't want to leave

    Shelter are confident that you can simply exclude the occupants from the property (or the husband could throw the other people out).
    But, in reality, that's going to cause all sorts of complications including the police (who are not expert on these things).

    So you might have to go to court to remove them, which would take several weeks, during which time you couldn't receive rent, because that would start a new tenancy. You don't have to serve notice or wait, because they are now trespassing and you can start immediately.

    I think that the most likely outcome is that the husband serves notice and moves out, leaving you with the wife and son to evict.

    As that leaves them both homeless, it's the worst possible outcome, and it would be helpful (if very unlikely) if they were to realise this and try and work out how to share the property.

    When I post, I am expressing an opinion - feel free to disagree, I have been wrong before.
    Please don't act on my suggestions without checking with a grown-up (ideally some kind of expert).


      Thank you I never realised that they could jointly or severally give notice and that would end the contract for all, but it does make sense and you put it so clearly, thank you. How do I take it to court for possession? I have a reasonable grasp of S21 and S8 and have been to court for possession and arrears in the past. Pray tell what is the procedure for the eviction of trespassers? I assume that changing the locks when they are out can lead to an exciting time and discussion with the boys in blue but ultimately is it effective? I would not do it unannounced I will warn them that the first to give notice sets the date for the termination of the contract and by which they must all make alternate arrangements for accommodation!


        Originally posted by HMOmike View Post
        How do I take it to court for possession? I have a reasonable grasp of S21 and S8 and have been to court for possession and arrears in the past. Pray tell what is the procedure for the eviction of trespassers?
        It would be a normal non-accelerated claim for possession, not a possession claim against trespassers occupying. Someone who stayed after their notice to quit and hence their tenancy has expired are trespassers, but they didn't originally entered as a trespassers (since they had a tenancy) so the normal claim for possession.
        I am not a lawyer, nor am I licensed to provide any regulated advice. None of my posts should be treated as legal or financial advice.

        I do not answer questions through private messages which should be posted publicly on the forum.


          My view would be that it is best for all concerned to bring the tenancy to an end.

          If he gives notice, that ends the tenancy for both of them on expiry of that notice. This puts you in a considerably stronger position than if you give him notice (in which case you may well have to then go to court to end the tenancy).

          Legally you can then exclude the wife / ex-wife if she stays put, since she will no longer have a tenancy. As JPK rightly says above, that may not be so simple in practice as it is in theory. Still, it is the way I would be inclined to approach it.
          There is a fine line between irony and stupidity. If I say something absurd please assume that I am being facetious.


            Agreed that the best solution would apear to be for your male tenant to give notice, which ends the tenancy for all.

            He should then move out to somewhere temporary, allowing you to remove the Female/teenager if they don't leave after his notice ends.

            They may well want to hang on until they are removed.
            Although as said you have a few options there baliff's would be the best all round.
            That has a slight advantage for them as it means they will be unintentionally homeless and the council will then have a duty to help them.
            It won't be much help and will probably just be a grotty room in a B&B, HMO, or even a hostel.

            Once they are all out you can then relet to whoever you like, including your now ex-tenant if he wants to move back in.
            He may not want to move back in to where his ex will be able to easily come round to keep 'screaming' at him.

            Remember also that couples often reconcile a few months after splitting up, so he may let her move back in again but if he does I wouldn't give them a joint tenancy next time round.


              Just to add that you cant unilaterally issue any new type of tenancy whilst the current one is force. Its up to the tenants to serve notice or agree a surrender unless you want to evict them, which seems unnecessary. However, its not in your interest to issue a new agreement anyway as you would lose flexibility and joint liability.

              I would suggest you discuss a mutually agreed surrender at a date to suit everyone.


                Thanks for all the constructive advice I think my way is now clear. I get the impression that the wife will not go quietly no matter how much discussion takes place! Has anyone any experience of exclusion which seems to be a euphemism for changing the locks whilst they are out. Presumably this means arranging return visits to collect possessions, what if during one of these visits the simply refuse to leave again?


                  You never let them back in once you've changed locks. You pack up all gheir stuff and hand it to them outside or through a window.


                    If you do go down the route of changing the locks when they are out then may i also suggest that at the same time you place a call with the Police to inform them of this, and request that the neighbourhood team are informed so if the then ex tenant '' kicks off '' upon her return and calls 999 they are aware, and will come down to prevent a breach of the peace. It saves all the blue light and grade 1 shinanigans which would come from the ex tenant calling up and saying all sorts of stuff at the time. It sounds a total mess and i wish you well.


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