Multiple Tenants on a Lease
April 29, 2010 6:44 AM   Subscribe

I'm getting ready to rent a house with three classmates and close friends and have a quick question about the legalese of lease agreements for multiple tenants.

I am a grad student and am preparing to rent a house with three other classmates. The landlord sent us all copies of the lease agreement to sign, but I'm a bit concerned because the lease paperwork doesn't really address the fact that there are multiple tenants.

I've seen lease agreements that explicitly state this and list the tenants, then state that the tenants are "jointly and severally liable" for the lease (which I'm assuming protects the landlord if one of the tenants stops paying rent), but there isn't any such language. For all intents and purposes, this same document could pretty much be used for a single-tenant situation (for instance, the full monthly rent is listed on each).

Legally, if we all signed leases for the same property that list the total rent, could this be a problem? Perhaps I'm being excessively cautious, but could the landlord somehow use that to legally demand 4X the actual rent? I'm somewhat inexperienced in this, so I figured I'd ask the cloud.

posted by sciencemandan to Law & Government (6 answers total)
I would give your landlord a call, ask them to consolidate the agreements into one. Barring that, I would just modify the lease agreement, changing the rent to 1/4 of what it says, and adding a clause that you are jointly and severally liable for the rent of your co-tenants' rent. Get them to initial that and you're fine.

With the current lease - you would likely win any case [mainly because it'd be unreasonable to assume you'd have accepted paying 4x what is probably normal in the area], but you don't want to ever get to that situation.
posted by Lemurrhea at 6:50 AM on April 29, 2010

Where are you?
posted by handee at 6:51 AM on April 29, 2010

St. Louis, MO
posted by sciencemandan at 6:55 AM on April 29, 2010

(obligatory IANAL): Does each copy have only a single signature line for the lessee? That would suggest that each lessee has personally signed a lease for the property for the full rent. I would guess that the landlord isn't trying to pull anything, that he just got a boilerplate document online that wasn't tailored to multiple lessees and didn't feel like customizing it.

In my opinion you should all sign but a single copy of the lease, and then make photocopies for each person's records. Yes, get "joint and several" on there. If the landlord doesn't want to make up a new lease, maybe you could put the necessary language in an addendum?
posted by overeducated_alligator at 6:56 AM on April 29, 2010

if the lease terms are not what you're used to and not what you're comfortable with (that is, you want the lease to list the four tenants and state that the annual rent is $14400, payable monthly on the first of the month in installments of $1200, where is tenant is jointly and severally liable for the total amount due, and the lease does not say this), you can simply ask the landlord to change to lease to the language you're familiar with and comfortable with. Generally speaking, it's not a problem to have all four tenants sign a separate and individual copy of the same lease, assuming it is the same lease and the lease indicates that each party is executing a separate copy. <>
But your question, if we each sign a separate (or a single, I can tell which) lease for the property without this language, could we have problems?, can't really be answered without (at a minimum) information about the jurisdiction and the verbatim language of the lease.
posted by crush-onastick at 7:02 AM on April 29, 2010

I am a lawyer but not a MO lawyer - and in any event, this more common sense than anything resembling legal advice. But you need to be SURE you understand what your rights and obligations are. You are signing a contract. As others have noted, contact your landlord, and if necessary, get him/her to add a clause that gives some certainty to your obligations.

Probably there is nothing fishy going on, but like I said, its a contract, and you don't want to bind yourself to something by operating on an assumption that turns out to be incorrect.
posted by neksys at 11:35 AM on April 29, 2010

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