how can my absent friend sign a tenancy agreement?
May 19, 2010 11:15 AM   Subscribe

Question about flat rental in England. A friend and I will soon be moving out of our current places and sharing a flat together. I'll need to sign a contract for a flat while he's out of the country. How can we end up in a situation where we're both on the tenancy agreement with equal status, as if he'd been present to sign originally?

My friend is leaving the country for work for two months. Three days after he returns, his current lease expires and he needs to move out of his current house share.

Our aim is to have a flat signed for and ready for us to move into when he gets back. The hard part is that we want to end up as co-signatories on the tenancy agreement, so not e.g. me being the named tenant and him being my lodger. We're considering several possible ways of managing this, and would appreciate your input!


We choose and start renting a flat before he leaves.
Pro: Simple. Con: We'd both have at least two months where we're paying rent on our old and new places. Neither of us can afford this.

We get form contracts from the big letting agencies for him to sign before he leaves. When I find a flat, I just fill in the flat details above his signature.
Pro: Flexible, we end up as if he'd been there to sign. Con: I know nothing about contract law, but I seriously doubt we'd be allowed to do this. Also, we'd be limited to renting from the agenc[y/ies] that he signed before leaving.

Find a flat we can sign for now that we won't have to start paying rent for until the month of his return.
Pro: Avoids complications. Con: Very little time left before he leaves, so far we've had no luck finding a nice flat with a two-month-ish wait time.

I find a flat that I can sign for as sole tenant. When my friend returns, we magically add his name to the agreement alongside mine with the same rights/responsibilities. Pro: Exactly what we want. Con: No idea if it's even possible, waiting to hear back from letting agents I asked.

He stays with me (or in a hostel or something) for a week or two after getting back, and we search for a flat together. Pro: Avoids problem, he helps choose flat. Con: Unworkable: No space for him or his possessions in my tiny and already-cramped current flat.

What can you tell me about the plausibility of the above ideas? Or what better ideas do you have?

Any good advice about flat hunting in Central/North London would be appreciated too!
posted by metaBugs to Work & Money (7 answers total)
Best answer: If you can prove it to the landlord/agency beforehand, in my experience most letters want as many people on the lease as possible (it gives them more security), so I think most would be happy to have him added to the lease on his return.

Also, is there a reason why he wouldn't be able to sign a faxed copy of the lease while he's away, or print out an emailed copy, scan it and email it back? That should keep things going until he returns.
posted by different at 11:27 AM on May 19, 2010

Power of attorney, limited to specifically for this matter.

posted by djgh at 11:39 AM on May 19, 2010

My suggestion would be to send the form to him wherever he will be, and then get him to send it back, but this would probably have to be completed prior to tenancy commencing.

Of course, one option (which I would never personally recommend) would be to just fake his signature. If he's a good enough mate you know he's not going to change his mind, and the letting agency doesn't insist on everyone being present in person (most don't in my experience) then it solves your problem.

Alternatively, go and see a couple of the agencies in the area and ask what they recommend - you may be able to sign for a 3 month lease yourself, then when he gets back start a new one with both of your names on it. Either way, if you're willing to be stuck ~£100 for the agency to go through the hassle of setting up a new contract then they're probably going to be happy to do it.

One thing to consider is that if you set it all up while he's out of the country then you will have to hand over the full amount of any deposit required, rather than having someone you can split it with.
posted by Simon_ at 11:59 AM on May 19, 2010

Best answer: You absolutely can sign the lease and add your friend to the tenancy agreement when he arrives and is available to sign. My husband and I actually had to do this once, since I contracted for the apartment on a visit and he didn't arrive for a few weeks.

It's the simplest solution, it's very routine and clear cut, and any letting agent should accommodate you.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:45 PM on May 19, 2010

Best answer: Technically, adding a new person will end the single-person tenancy, and begin a new joint tenancy. In practice, landlords will generally just "add a tenant", and there shouldn't be an issue unless it gets before the courts for some reason.

If your own income/credit report/references, etc might not be sufficient to land you the tenancy you want, then letting agents may find it useful if you arrange for the prospective tenant to also provide those details. But it's really up to them if they trust he is going to return and move in with you.

If you are going to somehow add him to the tenancy while he is still out of the country, your local authority might question your single-person council tax liability.
posted by wilko at 4:41 PM on May 19, 2010

I was in a similar situation with my partner I was in Colchester and he was looking for a flat in Gloucester where we were moving to. The agency emailed me a copy of the form in advance and let me fill it in and fax it back. Then my partner went into the office and signed the form I'd faxed in.
posted by Laura_J at 3:47 AM on May 20, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks everyone. It seems that signing the lease myself and adding my flatmate to it later is the best solution. We'll look into emailing a scan of the form back and forth too, just in case.
posted by metaBugs at 9:06 AM on May 24, 2010

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