Q&A - Can I be held liable for rent owed and damage done by son's flatmate?

Q: I signed a guarantee agreement for my son's university accommodation at the beginning of term. Right from the beginning one of his flatmates, Tom, has regularly caused problems in the house and has not paid any rent for the past three months. To make matters worse, he came home drunk with a group of friends last week and they broke the glass in the front door and several items of furniture. 

Now the landlord is demanding that I pay - not just for the damage caused by Tom and his pals but also for his rent arrears. I thought when I signed the agreement that I was only guaranteeing my son's share of the rent and any damage caused by him. What should I do?

A:  Although many parents who provide guarantees believe that they are only providing a guarantee in respect of their own child, the Tenancy Agreement in respect of the property will usually contain a clause which provides that each tenant is ‘jointly and severally liable'.  This means that if one tenant fails to pay their rent or causes damage, the others will be liable.

Every tenancy agreement can be different, as can every guarantee agreement.

You may have been given a written explanation about the extent of the guarantee in an email or letter and this could be different to the documents, so you should get this checked out.

Your best course of action is to seek advice from a solicitor immediately regarding the guarantee document and the tenancy agreement.  You will also need to provide your solicitor with a copy of the tenancy agreement and any additional correspondence that you have received from the landlord in respect of the rent arrears and payment for the damage to the house.