Usually the guarantee will say that the guarantor is responsible for paying the rent if the tenant(s) cannot or do not for whatever reason. The guarantee may also say the guarantor must pay for any repairs if the tenant(s) damage the property, or costs such as cleaning service costs.
The terms of the guarantee may be set out in a separate agreement or included in a section of the tenancy agreement itself. Sometimes there may just be a short section, called a 'clause', in the tenancy agreement with a separate form for the guarantor to fill in giving their personal and bank details. The guarantor should make sure that they are clear on what their responsibilities will be, before signing anything.
If you share a property with other tenants under one tenancy agreement the law calls this a 'joint tenancy'. A joint tenancy agreement usually requires you and the other tenants to promise to pay all of the rent, not just your own share. So, you are responsible for paying your own rent but, if any of the other tenants do not pay, you can also be asked by the landlord to pay all or part of their share of the rent too. The law calls this being ‘jointly and severally liable’. In this situation, your guarantor is also likely to be responsible for all of the rent, not just your share.
Getting legal advice
It is very important that a guarantor reads the guarantee carefully so that they understand what they are signing up to. If there’s anything in it the guarantor doesn’t understand, they should get independent legal advice. They may be able to get independent legal advice:
- as a benefit of their home or car insurance. Guarantors can check their policy documents to see if this applies to them. Many insurance policies provide access to free legal advice about the law in England and Wales, for example, via a telephone helpline.
- as a benefit of trade union membership. If your guarantor is a member of a trade union, they can contact their union to find out what legal advice may be available.
- from their local advice centre or Law Centre. See Advcenow’s Help Directory for more information about where to go for legal advice.
The guarantor is only liable if you burn the house down or something like that.
Not true! Your guarantor may be responsible for covering the rent, the cost of putting right any damage to the property you rent and any other costs that the tenancy agreement allows your landlord to charge you (and any co-tenants) if you break the tenancy agreement. If the guarantee makes your guarantor responsible for more than just unpaid rent, it is important that they read the tenancy agreement as well so they know what else they are guaranteeing. (You may hear the tenancy agreement called the ‘primary’ agreement and the guarantee agreement referred to as the ‘secondary’ agreement.)
If you rent a property jointly, for example, with friends or fellow students, or even people you don't know, you are likely to be jointly liable for the rent for the whole of the property - not just your individual share. If this is the case, the landlord will probably require your guarantor to guarantee all the rent for the whole property, not just your share.
So, for example, suppose you have paid your share of the rent but one of your co-tenants fails to pay theirs, you and/or your guarantor could end up being liable to pay their share for them. Many guarantors are unaware of this and this is why it’s important that your guarantor reads and understands both the tenancy agreement and the guarantee before they agree to act as a guarantor.
Your landlord may take legal action against you and/or your guarantor if you break any of the promises you make in your tenancy agreement. It is also important to understand that if the guarantor has to pay any money to the landlord on your behalf, they have the right to ask you to repay them and can take court action against you if you don’t.