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Your rights in a shared house

Your rights in a shared houseIf you live in a shared house, your landlord may have extra legal responsibilities.

Joint and separate tenancies

Some of your rights and responsibilities will depend on whether you have a joint tenancy with the people you live with or you all have separate tenancies.

A joint tenancy is when you all sign one tenancy agreement. It means that you all have equal rights to the whole property. This means that agreements like whose room is whose are made voluntarily between the people sharing the house and aren't legally binding. Similarly, you all have an equal responsibility to make sure that the rent is paid in full - so if one housemate can't or won't pay their rent, you will all face the consequences.

If you have all signed separate tenancy agreements, your rights and responsibilities are determined by your individual agreement. This will normally mean that only you have the right to use a particular bedroom, for example. It also means that you are only responsible for your own rent.

Find out more about joint and separate tenancies with this fact sheet from Shelter.

Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs)

In some cases, shared houses fall into a special legal category: 'Houses in Multiple Occupation', or HMOs. A home is an HMO if:

  • At least three people live there
  • The people living there are not all related
  • The people living there share facilities with each other, such as kitchens or bathrooms

This includes the majority of privately-rented student houses, but it doesn't normally include halls of accommodation. If you're not sure, you can check with your local council whether your home is registered as an HMO. It's also worth checking with the landlord or letting agent before you move in so you know where you stand.

If the property is three or more storeys high and there are at least five people living there, it is considered a 'large HMO', which means that the landlord needs a licence and the property will be inspected at least every five years.

An HMO can be under a joint tenancy or separate tenancies.

Extra rules in an HMO

All the usual rights and responsibilities still apply in an HMO, but the landlord also has to ensure that:

  • The building is fire-safe. This will always include fitting smoke or heat alarms, but could include adding self-closing fire doors or emergency lighting.
  • The shared facilities are sufficient for the number of people living in the house.
  • The shared facilities are well-maintained.

The exact requirements are set by your local council. You will normally be able to check them on the council website.

What to do if your landlord isn't following the rules

If your landlord isn't following the rules, you can contact your council's health and safety department. They will investigate, and can take action against your landlord if necessary.

If you need extra advice to deal with a problem with your landlord, you can use Shelter's directory to find an advice service in your area.

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