Contract only signed by 1 tenant – is it legally binding?

by Readers Question

9:50 AM, 27th May 2020
About 6 months ago

Contract only signed by 1 tenant – is it legally binding?

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Contract only signed by 1 tenant – is it legally binding?

My tenancy agreement with my current tenants was set up as a 1 year tenancy, then moving to periodic, starting 1 Sep 2019.

One of the tenants (secondary tenant) has stated she wishes to move out at the end of June, 2 months earlier than the tenancy agreement end date.

Having looked back at the contract I have realised I have made an oversight, and although both tenants are named on the contract, only 1 tenant has signed it (the lead tenant). The secondary tenant’s signature is missing.

From the start of the tenancy, it was clear to both tenants (in writing in an email) that the contract was for 1 year, and they have both lived since 1 Sep 2019.

Is this contract legally binding, or is the second tenant able to move out on June 30 without penalty?

Thank you

Elise


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Comments

Mike

12:48 PM, 27th May 2020
About 6 months ago

I would just let her move out as long as the head tenant is aware of it, and agrees to continue to pay full rent. He should still be responsible for full rent payment, so discuss this with the head tenant, just to be on the safe side ask her to sign a surrender agreement of some sort that she wishes to leave and terminate her part of the tenancy , you should be pretty much covered just in case if she comes back at a later date and claims she has not terminated her part, or has been illegally evicted, just cover your self from possible problems, and ask the head tenants to bear witness. I would also add a clause on the original agreement that either tenants would be responsible for the rent as joint tenants, if one leaves the other takes full responsibility, this clause may already be there on your AST. But if you add this clause, ask the head tenant to counter sign the added clause.

Smartermind

12:56 PM, 27th May 2020
About 6 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Mike at 27/05/2020 - 12:48
"I would also add a clause on the original agreement that either tenants would be responsible for the rent as joint tenants"

You cannot change a contract retrospectively without the agreement of all parties. If this clause is not already there, then it is too late to add now.

As far as the tenancy agreement is concerned, it is legally binding but only the lead tenant who has signed the agreement can be held liable. The liability for the full rent thus falls on the lead tenant. The OP and the lead tenant are now stuck with this. Perhaps the lead tenant could find a replacement tenant to take the place of the tenant wanting to leave. And if that is so a new tenancy agreement can be drawn up.

bean

13:07 PM, 27th May 2020
About 6 months ago

A tenancy does not need to be in writing.
A person in occupation paying rent is a tenant.

James Nelson

17:18 PM, 27th May 2020
About 6 months ago

In reality the remaining tenant is not going to cover the rent of the outgoing tenant.

They will be ignorant , or they will feign ignorance of the legalities.

It would be hard work for you to pursue them for the shortage IMO

Paul Shears

17:20 PM, 27th May 2020
About 6 months ago

Reply to the comment left by James Nelson at 27/05/2020 - 17:18
I have been doing this successfully for nine years.
You need to reject 90% of applicants and just take tenants who are established in their careers with a high disposable income.

Mike

17:42 PM, 27th May 2020
About 6 months ago

My advice to OP would be to allow the head tenant to bring in someone else in the place of outgoing tenant and take on a new tenant as a lodger, this way you will not need to issue a new AST otherwise you may not be able to evict any of them for 6 months and plus the back log of court cases, it may stretch to 12months, so continue as a rolling tenancy even though one tenant named on the original contract has or is intending to leave, then give the head tenants written authority to take on one lodger and he can negotiate his own rent with his new tenant as taken as a lodger. He could then easily evict a lodger by serving a short notice usually 2 weeks notice, without having to go through court hearing process.

bean

18:54 PM, 27th May 2020
About 6 months ago

Could not agree more with Paul Shears.

Jessie Jones

11:06 AM, 31st May 2020
About 6 months ago

A tenancy agreement is a legal contract, whether it is signed or not. The signature only serves to identify the agreed terms and conditions.
It is important to know what the agreement says about the payment of the rent, i.e are both tenants liable for the whole rent, or are they liable for only half each? Are they joint tenants or tenants in common?
Assuming that they are joint tenants and both equally liable for the whole rent, then remind them both that the tenancy is a contract and that they will have to decide amongst themselves who is going to pay as you will pursue both of them at court for unpaid rent.
As an aside, I have previously allowed a tenant to leave their contract early as I knew I was able to replace them easily. There is no point in enforcing a contract just because you can, if there is a suitable remedy that suits all parties.
Also, just because one of the tenants didn't sign your copy of the agreement, it may well be that they did sign their own copy and be unaware of the fact that they didn't sign yours. If you did take the matter to Court then you have good evidence of the terms and conditions of the contract as it is signed by one tenant, and it would be hard for the other tenant to claim that the terms were different. But I am not a lawyer!

SimonR

16:11 PM, 1st June 2020
About 6 months ago

If both are named on the agreement but only 1 has signed it doesn't make a difference as the tenancy is joint and several also a tenancy can be implied. She has been paying the rent monthly and I presume she has had sight of the agreement so normal rules apply.

Paul Shears

17:29 PM, 1st June 2020
About 6 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Jessie Jones at 31/05/2020 - 11:06
"There is no point in enforcing a contract just because you can, if there is a suitable remedy that suits all parties."
Spot on in my experience.
It's rather like having a deposit.
It's more about discouraging bad tenants from getting involved in the first place. I have never kept one penny of a deposit in nine years. This is only practical when you cream off the top.
Then you get a reputation that is passed on down the road to new tenants.
Landlords need references too!


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