Case Study 6: Rent arrears and joint tenants

The landlord applied to the court for a possession order and then bailiff’s warrant following the accrual of rent arrears by four joint tenants. An agreement was reached by the landlord, three of the tenants and their guarantors that a new tenancy would be created following payment of the majority of the arrears. This was undertaken by the tenants’ guarantors, following which one of the new joint tenants (Mr B) complained to the landlord that only the fourth tenant should have been responsible for the arrears. This was because the three tenants had always paid the fourth tenant their rent for him to forward to the landlord.

Following conclusion of the complaints procedure, the Ombudsman carried out a formal investigation. She determined that there had been no maladministration in the landlord’s handling of the arrears. The landlord had correctly told the joint tenants that, as a condition of the tenancy agreement, they had been jointly and severally liable for all of the rent. This meant that the three joint tenants were responsible for paying the whole rent and not just a share. 

While the Ombudsman commented that the landlord could have done more to assist the tenants in keeping arrears to a minimum, she found that it had monitored the arrears and it was reasonable for the landlord to have expected the tenants to have done the same. The landlord had addressed all communication about the rent to all joint tenants and the fourth tenant’s actions could not reasonably have been foreseen by the landlord.