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What to do when joint tenants separate or divorce

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Author Topic: What to do when joint tenants separate or divorce  (Read 94 times)
Newbie
Posts: 2

I like property

« on: May 19, 2022, 04:07:47 PM »

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 wifeís 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 ASTís 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 wifeís 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 tenantís 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 donít think I can do that without the wifeís 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 hasnít) 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 leave 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!   
Hero Member
Posts: 727

I like property

« Reply #1 on: May 19, 2022, 05:00:58 PM »

He can serve a valid notice to quit unilaterally which will end the tenancy on its expiry. After that, you can theoretically exclude her from the property as long as you don't use force etc., i.e. wait for her to go out and change the lock.
Newbie
Posts: 2

I like property

« Reply #2 on: May 21, 2022, 02:56:21 PM »

Thanks for your reply, I have similar advice from elsewhere so this sounds like a plan!
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