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Lease Contracts - The Meaning of Joint and Several

When you see the phrase "joint and several" in a legal document or contract it means that that the parties on one side of the agreement are responsible individually and 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 with a check, money order or cashier's check in the full amount every month.

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

It not only creates accounting problems... but if one tenant pays on time and the other is late how do you handle the late penalty? And...

If you accept payment from one tenant and the other tenant fails to pay have you risked having accepted a partial 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 if you allowed lease violations in the past you can at any time demand that tenants comply with the terms of the lease.

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

If they then fail to provide you with a single check for the full amount of the rent you can file a forcible detainer action (eviction).

What if tenant #1 pleads that tenant #2 has moved from the property and tenant #1 should only be required to pay 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 sure your lease has "joint and several" and "non-waiver" clauses.

Carefully explain each to every new tenant.

About The Author

Mark Walters is a real estate investor and author. His published works can be found at his web site: http://www.CashFlowInstitute.com

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