April 15, 2020

Understanding a Group Lease for Tenants

A guide for tenants to understand what a group lease means.

Joint and Several Liability Lease

All of Baker Street’s Group leases are joint and several liability leases, meaning that each tenant listed on the Lease Summary Page is jointly AND separately responsible for the entire rent amount and for any damages. 

The Excerpt from Baker Street’s Lease is listed below:

JOINT AND SEVERAL LIABILITY. The Tenants recognize and agree that although each Tenant may sign a separate copy of this lease, each Tenant is agreeing to be bound by the terms and conditions herein. When there is more than one Tenant listed in the Summary Section of this Lease, each Tenant is jointly and severally (individually) liable for full performance of all lease obligations. Each person is responsible not only for his or her individual obligations, but also for the obligations of all other Tenants. This includes paying rent and performing all other terms of this lease. A judgement entered against one or more Tenants(s) does not bar an action against the others.

What this means for Tenants

Each tenant on the lease is responsible for the entire lease and the entire rent. The understanding and arrangements decided among the tenants in regards to rent, while important to tenants, is not a legal agreement with Baker Street. Baker Street does not monitor, determine, or engage in the rental payment arrangements between tenants and does not pursue one tenant for unpaid rent. If any portion of rent is not paid, all tenants on the lease are responsible and notified, regardless who has or has made rental payments.

In other words, even if it is decided between two tenants that one tenant pays $400 for one room and another roommate pays $800 for a larger room, each tenant is still liable for the full $1,200 of rent, even if one tenant pays and the other does not pay.

This also means that if one tenant violates the lease agreement to the extent that it results in eviction, all tenants on the lease would be evicted, not just one tenant.

In Legal Terms

“Joint and several liability” is where two or more persons are liable in respect of the same liability.

Under joint and several liability or all sums, a claimant may pursue an obligation against any one party as if they were jointly liable and it becomes the responsibility of the defendants to sort out their respective proportions of liability and payment.

Example Scenario: Full Rent Responsibility

If half of the tenants decide to move out unexpectedly and stop paying rent, all tenants still remain responsible for paying the full rent amount, and not just the predetermined portion agreed to among the tenants.

Baker Street strongly recommends all tenants sign a roommate agreement prior to move-in to delineate who is responsible for various items pertaining to a property. Here is a helpful tool to determine what to include in a roommate agreement, and here is a roommate agreement template suggested by U of M.

Baker Street has the legal right to deduct unpaid rent from the Security Deposit and will pursue Collections and/or Eviction if rent is not paid in full.

Process for Adding or Removing Tenants from a Group Lease

Baker Street is happy to help add or remove a tenant from a group lease, as long as all tenants on the lease agreement approve. All tenants must approve, because all other terms of the lease, including the total amount of rent, will remain the same.

Steps to add or remove someone from a lease:

Contact Baker Street by email. Include details such as, who will be added/removed, why this person is being added/removed, when will this person be added/removed, and if someone is being removed, will someone else will be added in that person's place. In addition, if a tenant is being added, Baker Street will need the new tenant's first and last name and email address. It is also recommended to include all tenants on the email, so that it is clear to Baker Street that all tenants are in agreement.

If someone is being added, Baker Street will send the new person an application. To send an application, Baker Street needs the tenant's first and last name and email address. The new tenant will need to complete the application before he/she is added to the lease.

If someone is being added, Baker Street will send the new person the lease. The new person will need to sign a new version of the lease with all of the accurate tenants included.

If someone is being removed, this tenant will not be included in the new version of the lease.

If someone is being removed, this tenant and all original tenants will need to sign a Lease Termination Amendment drafted and provided by Baker Street. The Lease Termination Amendment will state that the tenant being removed will no longer have interest in the property and is removing all of his/her responsibilities. In addition, the new version of the lease is now the accurate and correct version.

Note: If someone is being removed from the lease, the group must decide and agree if they would like to remove the tenant before finding a new tenant, if applicable. Again, this is because the full responsibility of the lease and full amount of rent will still be owed, regardless if there are less tenants on the lease.

For example, there is a house with a lease for a total amount of rent of $1,000/month, which includes five tenants, who agreed among each other to pay $200/month. If one tenant wants to be removed, the total amount of rent will still be $1,000/month, not $800/month ($200/person).

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