Get it in writing when you share

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The Independent Online
STUDENTS who share a rented house or flat should formally agree in writing the basis on which they occupy the property.

A recent court case highlights the importance of having a contract so that everyone knows where they stand financially and legally. David Roberts was granted a tenancy by Monmouth Council of a three-bedroom house in Gwent. He occupied one bedroom.

Angela Marlog and her two children moved in and occupied the other two bedrooms. The rest of the accommodation was shared.

The sharers were not cohabiting. Mrs Marlog paid Mr Roberts pounds 20 a week for her share of the rent. In January 1989 the council served notice on Mr Roberts to repossess the property because of rent arrears.

Mr Roberts left in April 1989, but Mrs Marlog claimed she was entitled to stay. She said she was a sub-tenant of Mr Roberts, her sub-tenancy was binding on the council and she could, therefore, remain in the property.

The council claimed that she was a mere lodger - a licensee with no legal rights.

Mrs Marlog lost her case. The Court of Appeal said there was only an informal agreement to share the house and no intention to create a legal relationship.

Anyone entering into a sharing arrangement should agree in writing their status in the property.

If students share a property, typically one of them signs the tenancy agreement with the landlord. The others pay their rent to the named tenant.

If the named tenant disappears for any reason, the sharers have no legal right to have the tenancy transferred to them and the landlord can get them out.

If you have exclusive possession of self-contained accommodation in a shared house or flat you may be a sub-tenant. John Samson, property partner with the solicitors Nabarro Nathanson, says: 'If the main tenancy is terminated sub-tenants have special rights which can include the right to a replacement tenancy.'

Sharers frequently decide to be all named as tenants in the agreement with the landlord. The advantage is that if one tenant disappears the others can remain in the property without any problems.

The disadvantage is financial. If you are all named tenants, the landlord can look to any one of you for all the rent in the event of one tenant disappearing.

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