joint and several liablilty

Adding a joint and several liability clause to your lease is one of the most intelligent, yet lesser known things you can do to protect yourself. What this means is that if you have a house property where several tenants live, or even an apartment with a few tenants in their own bedrooms: the rent share agreement they have does not apply to you. It is a one for all situation that will save you a lot of trouble. It also means that if one roommate causes trouble, all are liable, which does foster a greater sense of group accountability.

"What? We didn't know she had a temper problem!"

“What? We didn’t know she had a temper problem!”

Also known as “all sums”, this means that a claimant can pursue obligations against any party involved. Beyond that, the individuals have to sort out their own portions. However, this also means that if you go after one, you have to go after all. This is an important obligation to be very clear about in your lease when you have more than one tenant moving in and it allows you to have each tenant covered in one fell swoop.

From a rent collection perspective, if you have a group and half decide that they want to leave, the remaining tenants are still liable for those renters’ portions of the full rent. If all of them move out, but you can only find one: then that tenant may be legally liable for the entire debt as well as any property damage. Additionally, when it comes to matters needing advanced notice such as inspections, again: if you’ve told one, it’s as good as telling them all.

As with any legal issue, though, there may be differences from state to state. There have been a number of states that have limited the scenarios in which this is applicable. California and Ohio, for example, view it as only applicable for economic damages. Illinois abolished the clause if there is less than 25% fault involved and New York and Iowa have done the same for less than half. You need to check with your attorney to find out what the particulars are in your state, but the chances are good that you will have at least some protections were you to enact such a clause in your own lease.

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Kurt Kroeck has written articles in real estate, law, and art related niches for a number of high profile publications. He is an avid WW2 re-enactor, artist in graphite, charcoal, and digital media. He volunteers in animal rescue and enjoys spending time with his children.

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