Too many people on the lease... what are the downsides?
June 21, 2013 1:11 PM   Subscribe

I'm trying to arrange private student accommodation for next year in a smallish university town in the UK, as part of a group of four students. Decent shared accomodation for four people is few and far between -- but three-person houses are abundant and awesome. How bad an idea is it for one of us to be a permanent 'guest'?

I suspect I already know the answer to this, but I'm curious as to the strength of AskMe feeling -- is this a "well, probably not great, but could be fine" or a "OMG YOU WILL GO TO JAIL IF YOU DO THIS" idea?

The plan would roughly be that three of the group would sign the lease and live there officially. The fourth would pay rent and be a tenant for all intents and purposes, but not actually be on the contract.

Relevant points:

- We're all friends and trust each other, so we're not worried whoever ends up not being on the lease getting screwed over on e.g. rent.
- We don't mind potentially getting thrown out of the flat over this (we can't see how the landlord would find out, but if they did we could probably find somewhere else within time)
- We do mind breaking the law e.g. if there are fire safety laws that we'd be breaking. Our gut feeling is that violating the terms of the contract isn't as bad as breaking the law, but none of us are real-estate lawyers.

So, Metafilter, what are your thoughts? Is this completely insane? It seems like there aren't many downsides to us; what are we missing?

throwaway email:
posted by anonymous to Home & Garden (7 answers total)
A few years ago when sitting down to sign the lease on a two bedroom apartment, my roommate and I asked our landlady if it would be ok to have a third person live there for a few months.

She said: "No, that would not be ok. Unless two of you are lovers?" and then made hilarious aging lady eyebrows at us.

If you want to pull this off in a way all four of you could be legally occupying it [disclaimer: I do not know the rules for UK tenancy, but this is what would have made it OK in my experience], pretend that two of you are a couple and will be rooming together as a couple.
posted by phunniemee at 1:15 PM on June 21, 2013

You're students, who are all friends, and don't mind getting thrown out as a worst-case scenario. What other even remotely possible outcome is worse than that? Go nuts.
posted by wrok at 2:39 PM on June 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

Depending on the town, there might be abundant three-person houses because four-person houses fall under extra licensing requirements for Homes in Multiple Occupation (the license requirements vary from place to place). This usually counts households, not individuals - so claiming it is two single people and a couple might get around the three-person rule if that's the case? Otherwise if you put four people into a three-person house and so it becomes a house which should be licensed, then if the landlord knows about it there are more serious issues for them than just having more people than they expect in the house. These regulations are generally designed to protect tenants from unscrupulous landlords trying to cram too many people in substandard housing, I don't know what happens if they are breached by tenants secretly having extra subletters in the house.

Barring the issue above, I think the worst that can happen is that the landlord finds out you are in breach of the tenancy agreement band applies to have you evicted. I'm not sure how long they have to give you to find a new place, or whether breaching the tenancy affects any of your rights about deposits in tenancy deposit schemes . If the fourth person is living in a separate bedroom, then they could quite easily notice this if they do an inspection or come round to do maintenance, and while you should get 24 hours notice before a visit, in my experience this rarely happens. If it's two people in a bedroom meant for one, I think it's unlikely they would find out.
posted by penguinliz at 3:28 PM on June 21, 2013

I wouldn't have even thought this would be an issue, to be honest. My friends who live in shared houses (lots, in London) tend to have one or two people on the lease and everyone else pays their rent to them. I spent a while in a four-person house with one person on the lease and never even considered it might be an issue.
posted by corvine at 4:30 PM on June 21, 2013

While it is somewhat dependent on the area, you should probably be ok. Uni students do this like, everywhere.

You won't get in trouble with the law for this (I am not a lawyer.) If the fire-code people do get really picky about things, the LANDLORD might get a fine.

Worst case scenario: landlord asks you to move out. Avoid places with particularly nosy landlords, or landlords that live around the corner.

If you're a mixed gender group, have a plausible "they're dating, s/he lives somewhere else and just stays over sometime" story ready to tell. That might get you out of a hey I was walking by and saw x.

Oh, a sidenote: Whatever you do or don't do, tell the truth about who is living there and all that to people like the tax office. Or the university scholarship office.
posted by Ashlyth at 4:52 PM on June 21, 2013

The landlord might just insist that one of you has to go, to be within the terms of the lease; worst case is evicting all of you. (I sincerely doubt there'd be anything like arrests or jail time.)

BUT: if the fire-code people fine the landlord, a possibility that Ashlyth mentions, it's very likely that they'd find some way to pass that fine on to you, as well as evict the lot of you.
posted by easily confused at 5:04 PM on June 21, 2013

It's not going to be criminal so don't worry on that side of things.

Questions: where will person no 4 be sleeping? Sharing a room? A bed? Are they a couple? Who gets to stay if they split up? How will you divide the rent? How do you divide the bills? if the sharers aren't a couple what will the rules be for sharing the space? Or will you use a living room as a fourth bedroom? If I was a landlord and students did that I would add 33% to the rent and sell the house as 4 bed v v quickly.

Make sure you declare all 4 people for council tax purposes and ensure you all sort out your student exemption paperwork.
posted by biffa at 5:38 PM on June 21, 2013

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