Signing a Lease

Joint tenancy

Download the PDF: Agreement between joint tenants

Note

This section is intended for people who currently live in joint tenancy (with roommates) or would like to. However, since the subject of joint tenancy is quite complex and largely subject to interpretation, this section does not have the answers to every question.

All the examples provided assume that there are two joint tenants. These principles still apply if there are more than two.

Pros and cons

For lessees

Signing a joint tenancy lease, meaning a lease with one or more other people (joint tenants) has its benefits, particularly financially, as the rent and other expenses (such as heating, power and phone service) can be split. You can also potentially live in a larger dwelling, share chores, and so on.

However, a joint tenant may decide to leave the dwelling at the end of the lease. The remaining lessee will then have to assume full responsibility for the lease, including paying the rent.

Joint tenants enter into a legal relationship with each other and with their common lessor. They must be prepared to face potential difficulties, like if one of them fails to fulfill their obligations.

For lessors

The advantage for the lessor is having two people responsible for paying the rent rather than just one.

However, because each joint tenant has an individual right to terminate their part of the lease (in theory, this would only happen at the end of the lease), the other joint tenant may wish to continue living in the dwelling alone. In that case, the lessor loses one of their guarantees of payment, since only one person is responsible for the lease now.

A joint tenant is not just an occupant

A joint tenant is a lessee with a written or verbal lease who rents the same dwelling with one or more other lessees.

An occupant lives on the premises with one or more other lessees but does not have any rights or contractual obligations toward the lessor because they have no lease with them. However, if the occupant causes harm or damage to the lessor or their building, they may still be held responsible, given the principle that everyone must behave in ways that do not harm others.

On the other hand, an occupant may have rights and obligations toward the lessees of the dwelling. They must then refer to the agreement made between them.

To avoid confusion and make it easier for the documents to serve as proof, it is recommended that leases and other agreements be made in writing.

Joint tenants’ obligations

As with a lessee living alone in a dwelling, joint tenants must meet the obligations in their lease. These include:

  • Paying the rent in the manner stipulated in the lease
  • Using the dwelling as reasonable people would
  • Behaving in such a way as not to disturb the normal enjoyment of the lessor or the other lessees in the building

Paying the rent

The lessor is entitled to collect the rent in full. If they only receive a partial payment because one joint tenant paid their share but the other did not, they can apply to the Tribunal to recover the amount unpaid once it is considered late. If the rent is more than three weeks late, the lessor can apply to have the lease terminated and to evict all the lessees and other occupants.

This means that a joint tenant who does not want their lease terminated may be forced to pay the defaulting lessee’s share of the rent. They can then file a claim against the lessee who is at fault.

Paying the rent: A shared responsibility or a mutual responsibility?

Shared responsibility (joint obligation)

Generally, whenever there is more than one lessee, the responsibility to pay the rent is shared. This means that each joint tenant is responsible for paying their share. For example, if two joint tenants owe $600 for one month’s rent, they can typically be required to pay the lessor $300 each.

Mutual responsibility (solidary obligation)

If the lease contains a clause stipulating solidarity, either of the joint tenants can be sued for the full rent. In the example above, one of the lessees may be required to pay the full amount of $600 by themselves.

Whether an obligation is solidary must be clearly mentioned, either in a clause in the lease or in an agreement between the parties. If there is no explicit clause or clear agreement stipulating solidarity, the joint tenants share responsibility.

The exception is if the joint tenants are married, in which case the responsibility is automatically considered solidary. Contact the Tribunal administratif du logement for more information.

Other obligations of the lease

If one of the joint tenants fails to fulfill their obligations, the lessor can assert their rights before the Tribunal administratif du logement just as they would if dealing with only one lessee.

Issues between joint tenants

A joint tenant also has recourse against another joint tenant if they act inappropriately or otherwise do not comply with the joint tenant agreement (for example, by not paying their share of the housing expenses).

Rent increases and other modifications of the lease

Each joint tenant has the personal right to maintain occupancy. Each individual can decide whether or not they wish to renew the lease and whether they wish to accept or refuse an increase in rent or any other modification to the lease. That is why it is a good idea for a lessor to send a separate copy of any notice to each joint tenant. Furthermore, even if only one of the joint tenants refuses a rent increase, the lessor must file an application with the Tribunal to have the overall rent fixed.

Non-renewal of the lease

Even if they do not receive a notice of rent increase or modification to the lease, the joint tenants have the right to act differently. For example, joint tenant A may decide not to renew the lease, while joint tenant B may want to continue living in the dwelling alone. In such a situation, the lease would be renewed, but only for joint tenant B. From that point, they would assume all the lease responsibilities on their own, including the payment of rent.

The right to assign the lease or sublet

In theory, there is nothing in the law preventing a joint tenant from subletting their undivided share1 or assigning their undivided rights in the lease. However, even if the lessor is okay with the assignment or sublet, the joint tenancy situation may restrict the right of the lessee who wants to leave and to impose on the remaining lessee a person that they do not know or do not want to live with. The lessee who wants to assign or sublet their share must send a copy of the notice of assignment or subletting to both the lessor and the remaining lessee and obtain their consent to assign or sublet their share.

In any of the cases described, the remaining lessee may exercise their right to refuse; however, they must act in good faith and not in an excessive or unreasonable manner with the sole intent of harming the departing lessee.

If the lessor or the remaining lessee refuses in a manner that the departing lessee considers abusive, they can ask the Tribunal to rule on their right to assign or sublet.

Practical advice

To protect themselves, joint tenants are strongly advised to sign a written agreement between themselves (a.k.a. a roommate agreement) addressing all practical considerations involved in living together.

These might include ownership and use of the furniture, liability insurance, the right to assign or sublet a share and the conditions under which this can be done, enjoyment of the dwelling, exclusive use of certain rooms (such as a bedroom), dividing up chores, and splitting the rent (e.g., 60/40) and other expenses such as heating, power, and phone and cable service.

If one of the joint tenants takes any action individually within the scope of their contractual relationship with the lessor (e.g., giving notice of non renewal of their part of the lease), they should notify the other lessee immediately so they are not taken by surprise following a decision made without their knowledge.

1. Having an undivided share of a dwelling means having rights in the whole dwelling and sharing them with other people, without specific parts of the dwelling being allocated to a particular joint tenant.