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Joint tenancy

 

What is 'joint tenancy'?

Signing a Joint Tenancy lease means that more than one party is responsible for the terms of the lease. The joint tenants enter a legal relationship between themselves and their landlord. They must be prepared to face potential difficulties if one of them does not fulfill their obligations.

For better protection, joint tenants are advised to sign a written joint tenant agreement dealing with all practical aspects of living together. Details could include ownership and use of the furniture, liability insurance, the right to sublet or assign the lease and conditions, exclusive use of certain rooms (e.g. a bedroom) sharing the rent (e.g.60 % - 40 %) as well as other expenses such as heating, electricity, telephone and cable. Check out our sample roommate agreement for an example of elements you might want to consider.


Joint tenants vs. Occupants

A joint tenant is a tenant with a written or verbal lease who rents the same dwelling with one or more other tenants.

An occupant, as the word indicates, occupies the dwelling with one or more other tenants. From a contractual point of view, occupants have no rights nor obligations with respect to the landlord because they have no lease.

An occupant does, however, have rights and obligations towards the other tenants of the dwelling. These rights and obligations should be agreed upon before the prospective occupant moves in, and it is strongly recommended that the agreement be in writing in order to avoid difficulties in interpretation and possible litigation.


Rent

The landlord has the right to collect the rent in full. If a joint tenant pays his share but the other does not, the landlord who has received partial payment could apply to the Régie du Logement to recover the amount unpaid. Furthermore, when the rent is late more than three weeks, the landlord could apply to cancel the lease and evict the tenants and all other occupants. If the landlord applies to the Régie, without the tenant otherwise being in default, the tenant is entitled to pay the rent within a reasonable time after the demand.

If the rent is paid within a reasonable time, the costs of the demand are borne by the landlord. A joint tenant wishing to avoid eviction must pay the defaulting tenant’s share. He can file a claim against the tenant who is at fault.

Shared responsibility

Generally, the obligation to pay the rent is shared. That is, each joint tenant is responsible for his share. For example, if two joint tenants owe $600 for one month’s rent and the case goes to a hearing, each can be required to pay the landlord $300.

Solidarity responsibility

If the lease contains a clause stipulating solidarity, one of the joint tenants can be sued for the full rent. In the above example in which two joint tenants were responsible, one only could be required to pay the full amount of $600.

Solidarity must be clearly mentioned. If there is no explicit clause in the lease or a clear agreement between the parties, the joint tenants share responsibilities. Exceptions may arise in the case of married joint tenants. More information may be given by the Régie du Logement if need be.


Responsibilities of Joint Tenants

Like the sole tenant of a dwelling, joint tenants must respect the obligations of the lease.

If only one joint tenant does not respect his obligations, the landlord can file a claim at the Régie du Logement against the defaulting tenant in the same way he would against a sole tenant.

Problems Between Joint Tenants

A joint tenant whose roommate has violated the agreement between them (e.g. he does not pay his share of the rent or is displaying disturbing behaviour), can take legal recourses against the defaulting joint tenant. Contact the Régie du Logement for more information on how to do so.

Rent Increase and Other Modifications to the Lease

Each individual can decide whether or not he wishes to renew the lease or accept or refuse an increase in rent or any other modification to the lease. That is why a cautious landlord should send notices separately to each joint tenant. Furthermore, if only one joint tenant refuses an increase in rent or other change to the lease, the landlord will have to file an application at the Régie to have the rent set.

Termination of Lease

The joint tenants have the right to act differently. Thus, joint tenant A could give a non-renewal notice and joint tenant B could wish to continue living in the dwelling.

In such a situation, the lease would be renewed for joint tenant B only. He would thereby assume all the lease responsibilities on his own – including paying the rent in full.

Right to assign the Lease or Sublet

In principle, nothing in the law prevents a joint tenant from assigning or subletting his undivided rights of the lease. Even if the landlord agrees to the assignment or subletting, the fact of living in joint tenancy with someone somewhat restricts the right of the departing tenant to impose a new tenant on the remaining tenant.

The joint tenant wishing to assign or sublet his share must give a copy of the assignment or sublet notice simultaneously to the landlord and the remaining joint tenant. In one or another situation described above, the remaining tenant has a right to refuse the person proposed as a new joint tenant. If he should refuse, he must prove that he is acting in good faith and not abusing his rights in order to cause harm to the departing tenant.

If the landlord or the remaining joint tenant refuses the proposed person without a valid reason, the departing joint tenant can ask the court to rule on his right to assign or sublet.

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