Lease Contracts - The Meaning of Joint and Several


When you see the phrase "joint and several" in alegal document or contract it means that that the partieson one side of the agreement are responsible individuallyand collectively for the terms of the agreement.

Example: In the case of two tenants signing a lease agreement,"joint" means they are jointly responsible for the rent.

"Several" means that their joint relationship is severed.

In a contract it indicates that they have agreed that they are also responsible individually for the rent. If one does not pay his/her share of the rent the other is responsible for the entire amount.

Here's an example of a landlord who had a "joint and several"lease with the added provision that tenants must pay rent witha check, money order or cashier's check in the fullamount every month.

Landlord allowed the two roommates to pay half the rent each monthwith two separate checks. Bad policy.

It not only creates accounting problems... but if onetenant pays on time and the other is late how do youhandle the late penalty? And...

If you accept payment from one tenant and the othertenant fails to pay have you risked having accepted apartial rent payment and then not be able to evict?

Here's the good news. If you have in your lease a"non-waiver" provision it indicates that even ifyou allowed lease violations in the past you can atany time demand that tenants comply with the termsof the lease.

If the tenants continue to pay with two separate checksyou can return the checks and give "notice for failureto pay rent".

If they then fail to provide you with a single checkfor the full amount of the rent you can file a forcibledetainer action (eviction).

What if tenant #1 pleads that tenant #2 has moved from the property and tenant #1 should only be required topay their own half of the rent?

Show them "joint and several" in your lease agreement and explain that tenant #1 is now responsible for the entire amount of rent.

Explain that tenant #1 can seek recovery of the other half from tenant #2 in small claims court.

If you rent property to more than one tenant be sureyour lease has "joint and several" and "non-waiver"clauses.

Carefully explain each to every new tenant.


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