Does my partner have to be on the tenancy agreement? Plus adding them on

Moving in with your partner can be an exciting step, but if you plan to live in a rental, it may not be as simple as deciding it's the right decision in terms of the relationship. You may be wondering, ‘Does my partner have to be on the tenancy agreement?’

Living with a partner brings up a range of considerations relating to legal and financial agreements. If you want to live together in your rental property, it's essential that you do it properly. Here’s our advice, which has been approved by Housing Solicitor, Miles Richardson, of Citizens Advice Southend.

Can my partner move into my rental property?

Suppose you live in a rental property and wish to move your partner in. In that case, it's important to determine clearly whether you plan on becoming joint tenants, or whether you will remain the tenant and your partner will become a permitted occupant. 

When two people are joint tenants, they have equal legal obligations and rights pertaining to the tenancy agreement, the landlord, and each other. If, however, you opt for tenant and permitted occupant, the legalities and responsibilities differ. 

The primary difference between the tenant-permitted occupant and joint tenant arrangements is that the laws governing tenant agreements give virtually all of the tenant rights to the approved tenant and none to the permitted occupant. When partners are joint tenants, neither can evict the other, but when one is a tenant, and the other is a permitted occupant, the tenant can potentially take action to evict their partner. 

Do I have to add my partner to the tenancy agreement?

It's rare for a tenant to be given the choice as to whether to make a new occupant a joint tenant or a permitted occupant. 

Most landlords insist that any new occupants sign the rental agreement or lease and become tenants in their own right. When landlords grant permission for someone to occupy the property without being a tenant, they risk that person damaging the property or refusing to leave even after the approved tenant has left. While the approved tenant would essentially be liable for any damage caused by the permitted occupant, the waters can get muddy, and determining who is responsible can become an issue for the courts.

Whichever way you go about living together, you must not move your partner into your rental without first seeking permission from your landlord. Moving in a partner isn't always allowed; there are both legal factors to consider, as well as any subsequent effects on the tenancy deposit regarding its protection and who it is returned to at the end of the lease. 

Adding your partner to your rental agreement

Before discussing your partner's possibility of moving in with your landlord, check your tenancy agreement. 

Most tenancy agreements clearly stipulate the terms of the tenancy, which include how many people may reside at the premises and whether the landlord's permission is required to add an occupant/roommate. Tenancy agreements rarely state that you can move a roommate in without permission, but it's worth checking, just in case. 

If your tenancy agreement was signed on a 'single-occupancy- basis, it is a legal document that only permits you as the named tenant to live there. If you then move your partner in despite them not being specified as a joint tenant or permitted occupant on the agreement, it is classed as subletting. Subletting is usually prohibited, and your landlord could take legal action against you.

Even if your tenancy agreement does not mention any specific requirement that you must seek the landlord's permission before moving an additional tenant in, you should still notify them first. It's unlikely that a new tenant will go unnoticed for too long, and it doesn't pay to behave in a sneaky way. It is especially ill-advised to move your partner in without informing your landlord if you have a month-to-month revolving tenancy, as your landlord could evict you for any reason. 

Your landlord may wish to issue separate tenancy agreements for the rented property so you both have the same rights, even if you are the primary/sole tenant who is responsible to pay rent.

Requesting your landlord's permission

Contact your landlord to explain your wish to move your partner in as soon as possible. So long as you are a reliable and responsible tenant who always pays on time, it's reasonably likely that your landlord will approve the request. 

If you are on easy speaking terms with your landlord, then you could talk to them directly, but it's best to put your request in writing. Include your name, address, and state that you regularly pay your rent on time and keep the property in good condition. When you request to move your partner in, state the date you would like them to commence their occupancy. Let your landlord know that your partner would be happy to provide references, a copy of their credit report, and complete a rental application.

Does your partner meet the tenant criteria?

In order for your landlord or private landlord to approve of your partner becoming a tenant, they will need to be able to meet certain criteria. This may be as strict as your original application in terms of eligibility regarding financial status, good rental references, and solid credit history. The more boxes your partner ticks in this regard, the more chance you have of receiving an approval.

If your partner's credit, rental and/or financial history and status are subpar, you have little choice but to appeal to your landlord's good graces and explain the circumstances as reassuringly as you can. Some landlords are approachable and happy to make an informed decision when it comes to understandable circumstances surrounding previous poor credit, for example. 

If, on the other hand, your landlord is particularly strict, you may have no other choice but to end the tenancy and look for another property with your partner. 

Will the rent increase?

Once you are approved to move your partner in, whether the rent repayments will increase is at your landlord's discretion. Ultimately, your landlord may consider that an extra person in the property will inevitably lead to more wear and tear and charge accordingly. 

Of course, you will need to discuss and agree on all of the terms, including any changes to the rent amount, before signing on the dotted line. Additionally, if any utilities, such as electricity or water usage, are included in your rent, the extra usage by a second occupant could also be grounds for upping the rent. 

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What other changes may apply?

When landlords agree to adding a new tenant to an existing tenancy, the Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS) recommends that they have either a new tenancy agreement drawn up. At a minimum, they should have an addendum signed to best protect them and record all changes and agreed responsibilities for all parties. 

Additionally, the landlord or letting agent should ensure that any new information is recorded and signed, such as the new tenant agreeing to be bound by the original rental inventory. It is important to ascertain who will receive any remaining deposit refunds once the tenancy ends or a partner leaves, plus any deductions have been made.  This can usually be your own agreement between you and your partner prior to signing the new tenancy agreement.

What if other people already live with me?

Suppose you already rent privately with other tenants and wish to move your partner in as well. In that case, it may push the property into the category of a 'house in multiple occupation' (HMO), and your landlord may have to apply for a special HMO licence to continue operating the rental legally. They may also be legally obligated to make changes to the property in order to meet new compliance standards and regulations. It's fair to say that you are unlikely to have your request to add another tenant approved if it will cause your landlord this amount of cost and effort - unless they were considering changing the rental to an HMO classified property anyway. 

An HMO classified property is one in which three or more unrelated tenants occupy a property and share facilities such as the bathroom, kitchen, and toilet. Partners are not considered 'relatives' for the purpose of determining HMO classification, so if you already share your rental with someone, moving your partner in could be tricky. 

What if I move my partner in, and then we break up?

If you are both named tenants, you are close to the end of your tenancy agreement, and you both want to move out, you can simply give your landlord a 'notice to quit' and vacate the rental at the end of the term. 

If your tenancy agreement still has some time to go, you can request your landlord's permission to 'surrender your tenancy' and terminate the rental agreement early. This decision is at the discretion of the landlord, and they are not obligated to allow it. 

You are still responsible for paying rent

Until the end of the tenancy agreement, if you are both named tenants, you will both be responsible for maintaining the property's condition and paying the rent. This is the case regardless of whether one partner moves on or you both move out. 

For this reason, it is imperative to discuss the change in circumstances with your landlord. You can request that you revert your type of tenancy agreement back to a single occupancy agreement. If the person wishing to stay in the property is not an approved tenant, they may not be entitled to the usual tenant protections. 

What if my partner refuses to pay their half of the rent?

Of course, the hope is always that relationships that break down can end amicably, but that's sadly not always the case. When property is involved, it can be a challenge to keep everything agreeable, and sometimes disagreements over financials can even lead to a court order.

If you are joint tenants and you split up, you are still each responsible by law for paying the rent on time. However, if your ex-partner can't or won't continue to pay the rent, it will be up to you to make sure it gets paid. 

Make sure your landlord is aware of your situation

Whatever the situation is, always try to prioritise rent repayments, and let your landlord know as soon as possible if you think you will struggle to get it paid. Your landlord can technically evict you if the rent falls far enough behind, but they may be willing to work with you if the disruption is temporary. 

If your landlord refuses to negotiate any terms or temporary assistance in repaying any rent arrears, it's a good idea to contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau or other debt advice service. 

Your rights if your partner wants to move out

If you are the only approved tenant and wish to stay in the property, you can ask your ex-partner to move out. The exact time frame can be negotiated reasonably, but ultimately as the only approved tenant, you have the right to stay in the property, and they do not. 

If you are both approved tenants and your ex-partner wants to move out, you will have to ask your landlord to revert your agreement back to a single occupancy tenancy. So long as you are eligible for the tenancy on your own, this is a viable option, and your ex-partner can leave unencumbered.

If this is not possible, your ex-partner could agree to vacate the property while still remaining on the rental agreement for the remainder of its term. In this case, they will still be legally responsible as a tenant, and it would be a matter of trust between you. You can still inform your landlord of the changes, but ultimately, your ex-partner would still be liable for any damage or rent arrears even though they no longer reside there. 

Can I have my partner removed from my rental property?

If you are both approved tenants, then the short answer is no, not unless you can get them to agree to leave and have the tenancy agreement amended or re-written. 

Even if you are the only approved tenant and your partner is a permitted occupant, there are laws that protect individuals from being forced out of their home. In England, Northern Ireland, and Wales, these are called 'home rights,' while in Scotland, they are called 'non-entitled spouse/civil partner rights.' Under these laws, occupants have the right to continue living in a property during a valid tenancy so long as they are still in a civil partnership or married. 

Occupation order

The only exception to this is in the case of an occupant applying to the courts for an 'occupation order.' Courts don't issue these routinely, as they can result in excluding someone from a property that legally has the right to live there. It's considered a last resort, but depending on the circumstances, it may be necessary. 

The courts typically consider such cases in the event of avoiding the likelihood of harm to you, your ex-partner, or any relevant children, for example, in domestic violence cases. Hopefully, if you separate, you will be able to negotiate the changes amicably, but it's worth understanding what the implications are in the case of a hostile separation while occupying a rental property

Can someone live with me in my council house?

Council houses are generally provided to eligible applicants and their families, so the answer is yes in many cases. 

That said, if you wish to have someone live with you as a joint tenant, you must first check the tenancy agreement and consult with your landlord or local council regarding the proposed changes. 

It's important to note that any changes to the number of people living in your home may impact the amount of benefit you receive, especially if they are going to contribute to the rent. In fact, even if you do not expect them to pay towards the rent, the council may still expect them to unless they are classed as a dependent. 

Types of council house tenancy agreements

There are three types of council house tenancy agreements; introductory, secure, and flexible. An introductory tenancy agreement is the only type that prevents you from moving anyone else in. 

If you are on a secure or flexible council tenancy agreement, you are allowed to have someone else live in your council house whether you are there or not. You must, however, ensure that you inform the council of any changes to the current living arrangements. 

When two people wish to live as partners in a council house, they are generally expected to share the rent and therefore usually apply for a joint tenancy agreement. However, if you do not expect your partner to contribute to the rent, then you can decide to simply inform the council of the new occupant and not worry about amending or redoing the tenancy agreement. 

Final thoughts

It is always ideal that all tenants and landlords fully understand their rights and responsibilities. If it is possible to add your partner as an approved tenant and complete a new or adjusted tenancy agreement, all parties know where they stand moving forward. This could save everyone a lot of stress in the event that there are any unforeseen issues down the track. 

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