Lodgers and shared tenancies

This topic gives background information about renting accommodation which is not exclusively yours (where you share some space with someone who is not a member of your household).

Types of shared housing

If you share a flat or house, you will have one of the following tenancy types:

  • Joint tenancy - this means that everyone in the flat or house is on the same tenancy agreement. There will be two or more people sharing the responsibility for the rent payable to the head landlord (rather than one person acting as the other's sub-tenant).
  • Sole tenancy - this means that one person in the flat has signed the tenancy agreement with the landlord and is responsible for paying the rent and bills. Everyone else in the flat will still have to pay their share, but if someone doesn't pay, the person on the tenancy agreement is ultimately responsible for coming up with the money.
  • Separate tenancy - this means that everyone in the flat or house has a separate tenancy agreement with the landlord and is responsible for paying the amount of rent that is written in their agreement.

Lodging in a council property

A lodger is someone who rents a spare room in a home but who is not a member of that person's household - and who may share the bathroom, kitchen and/or living room with the landlord. You can read more information about what happens if a council tenant wants to take in a lodger, see Taking in a Lodger.

If we want to take back possession of the property for any reason, provided the right permission has been given for you to be a lodger, you will have certain rights as a 'qualified occupier'. For more information, see Qualifiying Occupiers.

Lodging in privately rented housing

Not all private landlords permit the taking in of lodgers. Be sure that your landlord's agreement with their head landlord permits lodgers, or both of you could lose your home.

Protection of a shared tenancy deposit

There might be problems if the landlord keeps some or all of the deposit when you all leave. If you have a joint tenancy, you are all equally responsible for damage so the loss of the deposit should be shared between you. However, some flat sharers agree between them that they will each pay to repair the things they damaged – in this case, the deposit should then be returned and shared out between you. Regardless of the arrangements you reach, any deposit paid recently should be protected through a Tenancy Deposit Protection Scheme (the linked topic explains when this applies, and what happens at the end of the tenancy).

Utility bills

The normal arrangement in a flatshare is that all occupants pay equal shares of bills like gas, electricity and water. However, the legal situation as far as the supplier is concerned can be very complicated. What usually happens is that one person arranges for connection of the gas, electricity and/or water, and they become the person who is entering into the supply contract. This means they also become responsible for payment of the whole amount, and will need to recover contributions from the others. If the others won’t pay you their share of the utility bills, the contract holder will need to try to take legal action against the others for the money, after having paid the full amount to the supplier.

In some cases, the supplier can hold other people in the flat responsible for the bill - but only if they can prove that the person who made the contract did so on behalf of the other residents. So if you are the person who asks for the fuel supply, get the supplier to confirm in writing that they are accepting that you are asking for the supply on behalf of everyone else. If an account has been set up using the names of all the residents, the supplier can legally chase anyone named on the account for any outstanding debts. For example, if your name is on the bill and you have paid your share of the fuel supply but another resident does not pay their share, you could still be held legally responsible for the remaining debt.

As the legal situation is so complicated, you may need expert advice if there are problems with tenants not paying their share of the bill.

Council Tax

Usually you all have joint responsibility for the whole of the council tax bill. This means if the whole of the bill is not paid, the council can decide which of you to take action against to get their money back. Council Tax is not payable if only students live in the house - provided you apply to the council for student exemption. If you live in a house in multiple occupation your landlord is liable for the council tax, but they may pass the cost on to you in what they charge you.