What is Joint and Several Liability?
The term 'jointly and severally liable' will often appear in a tenancy agreement when there is more than one tenant sharing a tenancy, and they all share responsibility for the obligations of the tenancy agreement.
Any party to the agreement
‘joint and several liability’ means that the whole group of tenants share the same responsibilities. In the event one tenant fails to meet the terms of your tenancy agreement (i.e paying the rent) then it will be up to the other tenants to pay the shortfall if that one does not. Similarly, if one tenant causes damage to the property then it is the responsibility of all tenants to compensate the landlord for the damage in the event that the one party doesn't do so.
A tenancy agreement is a legally binding contract and should never be entered into lightly. When entering into an agreement with others, be it a partner, family members, a group of friends or sharing with people you don't know - you must ensure that all parties are aware that they may share responsibilities, and thus the 'costs' associated with those responsibilities.
If a guarantor is required for a tenant where there are ‘multiple tenants’ sharing responsibility the guarantor will be responsible for the tenant they have guaranteed and ALL their responsibilities for their part of the tenancy. As such, if the tenant is jointly and severally liable then so is their guarantor unless the guarantee signed by the guarantor states otherwise. In certain circumstance, this can be avoided by limiting your guarantor’s liability to a specified sum of money, for example, your share of the rent.
Individuals leaving mid-tenancy
If you leave a property mid-tenancy it is essential that you have the tenancy agreement amended and your name removed. If the landlord or letting agent will not do that, then you could ask them to write a letter stating that you have been relieved of your contractual obligations. You must have something from your landlord or agent in writing to say you will not be liable for anything to do with that property and this should include damage, non-payment of rent and utility bills.
Ultimately, it is in your best interests that you make sure the other people sharing the Joint Tenancy are responsible people, otherwise, you may have to face bills through no fault of your own!