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My understanding of the rationale behind joint and several liability is that the tenants would be most knowledgeable how to fairly distribute a cost amongst themselves. My question is what can be done to make sure that one person won't be held accountable for everything? For example I've heard stories where the landlord evicts everyone and sues one tenant for the remainder of the lease.

My question is would the following be considered legally binding? Sure the landlord could have all the tenants sign the lease agreeing to join and several liability, but then could the roommates amongst themselves sign something to say that each is responsible for his/her own rent?

For example say a landlord rents a house with 5 bedrooms. The landlord has each tenant sign a lease that says "each tenant can be charged as an individual or all tenants can be charged as a group", but then the tenants amongst themselves each sign an agreement saying "each tenant agrees to be responsible for their own portion of the rent". Then if one tenant doesn't pay, would the landlord be forced to go after them in court, or would whoever ends up getting sued by the landlord be able to go after the person who didn't pay, or would it not really make a difference?

  • The landlord is not bound by the intra-tenant agreement. – user662852 Aug 20 '15 at 11:48
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Joint and Several liability

Joint and several liability means that the landlord can sue the tenants one-by-one until the liability is satisfied. It has nothing to do with how the tenants distribute the costs among themselves.

In practice, the landlord will sue the people they a) can find and b) believe have money. No landlord in their right mind will give this up.

Intra-tenant agreement

If this met the requirements of a contract then it could be enforced and would allow the tenants to agree on the proportion of rent (and other outgoings) that would be paid by each. It is a really good idea, however, it has no impact on the agreement between the tenant(s) and the landlord.

However, if one of the tenants does not comply then the others are legally obliged to make up the shortfall. They could go to court to enforce the contract (or equitable rights in the absence of a contract).

TL;DR

Don't share a house with people you don't trust to pay the rent.

  • "Intra-tenancy agreement" it is unclear to me what you are speaking of in this section. – Alex Aug 21 '15 at 11:34
  • That would be the agreement between the tenants – Dale M Aug 21 '15 at 11:59
  • i've heard of the situation where the tenant who did not paid disappeared. so this means the other tenants could not sue him in court and be stuck with his liability? is there anything that could be done to mitigate this? by disappeared I mean the tenant did not provide a forwarding address – Alex Aug 21 '15 at 12:07
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    Yes it can be mitigated "Don't share a house with people you don't trust to pay the rent." – Dale M Aug 21 '15 at 12:20

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