This information should not be relied upon as legal or professional advice. Read the disclaimer.
When a relationship breaks down between joint tenants the question can arise as to whether one of the joint tenants can be removed from the tenancy agreement. Sometimes a joint tenant moves out and cannot be traced and their name remains on the tenancy agreement.
If a person is named as a joint tenant, they retain a right to live in the property, unless prevented from doing so by an injunction, and remain liable for rent payments.
If the matter remains unresolved, on the death of the joint tenant living in the property, the other joint tenant will succeed to the tenancy by right of survivorship.
Tenants in this position are best advised to seek professional legal advice on their options based on their specific circumstances.
Can the landlord remove a joint tenant?
No. Social landlords, councils and housing associations, do not have power to unilaterally remove one joint tenant from a tenancy at the request of another joint tenant.
Divorce/Civil partnership proceedings
If joint tenants are married or in a civil partnership, the joint tenancy issue can be resolved as part of the divorce or ending of a civil partnership procedure. Courts can order the transfer of a tenancy from joint names to a sole named person. If there are children, the courts can order a transfer of the tenancy if it’s for the benefit of a child (or children) of the relationship under the Children Act 1989.
Where there’s agreement over who should remain the tenant, it may be possible for one joint tenant to assign their interest in the tenancy by deed. There may be restrictions on assignment so this would need to be checked with the landlord.
A tenancy can be transferred from one cohabitant or former cohabitant to the other under the Family Law Act 2014. Alternatively, if the cohabitants have children, a transfer can be made under the Children Act 1989.
What if one joint tenant serves notice on the landlord?
This would, as a rule, have the effect of ending the periodic tenancy. The remaining joint tenant would lose their right to occupy. Care should be taken where a social landlord is prepared to offer a new sole tenancy of the same accommodation if one joint tenant serves notice to end the tenancy. For example, the offer from the landlord should be obtained in writing. Landlords might be expected to notify the joint tenant who would lose their rights in this scenario.
The Commons Library does not intend the information in this article to address the specific circumstances of any particular individual. We have published it to support the work of MPs. You should not rely upon it as legal or professional advice, or as a substitute for it. We do not accept any liability whatsoever for any errors, omissions or misstatements contained herein. You should consult a suitably qualified professional if you require specific advice or information. Read our briefing for information about sources of legal advice and help.