Information for guarantors

People often agree to act as a guarantor to enable a relative or a friend to rent a home. If you are thinking of doing this, that is very kind. If you agree to it, you will probably be helping someone who wouldn’t otherwise be able to become a private renter. But being a guarantor is a big responsibility and there are risks attached which you need to understand before you sign anything. This information is for you if you are thinking of becoming a guarantor.
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Pros and cons of being a guarantor

This is one of a series of four short guides aimed at young people and students providing information about guarantors. The other three in this series are:

Guarantors - who they are and what they do

What to do if you can't get a guarantor

Top tips on how to show a landlord you will be a good tenant

Being a guarantor for someone can be hugely helpful and may mean they can rent a place, that they couldn't otherwise. 

But sometimes a relative or friend might not be able to pay their rent or meet other tenancy obligations. If things do go wrong, guarantors are sometimes surprised to find that a landlord can ask them to honour the guarantee and even take court action against them if they fail to pay what is due.

If you find yourself in this situation, you can, in theory, ask the tenant(s) to repay you and, if necessary, take court action against them if they don’t. However, in practice, there may be reasons why you may choose not to pursue the tenant(s) – not least because you may not want to add to their problems.

It’s important to know that being a guarantor is a big responsibility and there are real risks attached which you need to understand before you sign anything. And you may decide it’s not something you can do.

You need to think about the person asking you to be their guarantor and decide how confident you are that they (and any co-tenants) are reliable and will behave responsibly. Can you rely on them to pay the rent and keep the property in good condition?

This short guide will help you understand more about being a guarantor so you can make a well informed decision about what you want to do. 

October 2022 

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A guarantor's responsibilities
What the guarantor is legally responsible or ‘liable’ for depends on what it is written in the guarantee.

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 written down 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 you to fill in giving your personal and bank details.

Before you sign anything make sure you read the guarantee and the tenancy agreement carefully. You need to know and understand what both these documents commit you to, before you sign the guarantee.

If there is only very limited or no information about what you are responsible for, you should ask the landlord or their agent to provide you with more, before signing anything.

Joint tenancies

When someone shares a property with other tenants under one tenancy agreement (a joint tenancy), the tenancy agreement usually requires each person to promise to pay all the rent, not just their own share. So, a tenant is responsible for paying their own rent but can also be asked by the landlord to pay all of the rent if any of the other tenants fail to pay. The law calls this being ‘jointly and severally liable’. In this situation, as a guarantor, you are likely to be responsible for whatever any of the joint tenants owe the landlord, not just what the tenant you are helping may owe.

You may also be responsible for any damage caused by other tenants, not just the one you’re wanting to help. This may not be what you expected and why it’s important that you understand the terms of the guarantee before you agree to them.

I want to be able to help out my son and his mate by acting as their guarantor but I do have some worries about it too. I would like to know if I have a right to be told that they are keeping up with their rent each month. If something changes that I don’t know about, for example if my son’s mate moves out, will that end my responsibilities?

You don’t have a legal right to be kept informed but you could suggest that your son and his friend do this and that you will only agree to be a guarantor if they commit to keeping you informed. If something changes at the property and you are not told, this might end your responsibilities. If it is a joint tenancy then usually you will be responsible for guaranteeing both tenants, rather than just your son. Your responsibilities only end when the tenancy for both of them ends. In that time if any money is left unpaid that should be paid, the landlord can pursue you for that money, for up to six years after the end of the tenancy.

Getting advice
Get advice if you aren’t sure what you are agreeing to!

It’s very important that you read the guarantee carefully to ensure that you understand what you are signing up to. If you’re guaranteeing more than just unpaid rent, then you must read the tenancy agreement as well so you know what else you are guaranteeing.

If there’s anything in either document that you don’t understand, you should get independent legal advice. You may be able to get legal advice:

  • A one of the benefits of your home or car insurance. Check your policy documents to see if this applies to you. Many insurance policies provide access to free legal advice about the law in England and Wales, for example, via a telephone helpline.
  • As one of the benefits of trade union membership. If you are a member of a trade union, contact them to find out where you may be able to get free or low cost legal advice.
  • From your local advice centre or Law Centre. See our Help Directory for more information about where to go for legal advice.

You are potentially responsible for:

  • any rent money owed (you may hear this called ‘arrears’),
  • the cost of putting right any damage to the property, and,
  • any other costs that the tenancy agreement allows the landlord to charge the tenants as a result of them not complying with the tenancy agreement in some way.
When does a guarantor’s legal responsibility start?

This depends on the wording of the guarantee.

If your relative or friend is sharing with co-tenants and they each have a guarantor as well, make sure the guarantee makes it clear that you will only become bound by the guarantee from the point when all the co-guarantors have signed up to the guarantees. Otherwise, if you’re the first one to sign, you could end up being responsible, on your own, for all the debts owed by any of the tenants to the landlord.

However, even if you do make sure that the other guarantors have signed up, there is still the possibility that your co-guarantors may ‘disappear’. A landlord does not have to take action against all the guarantors but can choose to pursue the guarantor(s) that are most likely to pay up. So, even if there are other guarantors, you may find yourself liable for the full amount of any debt.

When does a guarantor’s legal responsibility end?

Again, this depends on the wording of the guarantee. You may be liable for the fixed term of the tenancy and any extension period, and for any rent increases. If this is the case, you will be legally responsible if the tenant breaks any of the promises they made in their tenancy agreement before the tenancy ends and you will remain liable for a period of six years from the date they break their promise. So, for example, if the tenant fails to pay the last month’s rent, the landlord has 6 years from the date that the rent became due to take action against you and/or the tenant.

Unless the guarantee provisions say otherwise, you carry on being liable even if you fall ill or lose your job. So, even if your financial situation takes a turn for the worse, you will still be responsible unless the guarantee protects you from this.

If the tenant is declared bankrupt, the extent of your liability will depend on the wording of the guarantee. If you are declared bankrupt, then depending on the circumstances, the landlord may be a creditor in the bankruptcy for anything you owe. And if you were to die, the landlord may be able to claim against your estate but, again, this will depend on the circumstances and the wording of the guarantee agreement.

Asking for changes to the guarantee agreement

If some of the guarantee provisions seem unfair to you, you or the tenant could ask the landlord to agree to change the guarantee before you sign it.

For example, you may want to ask for changes that limit your responsibility, so that:

  • The guarantee only applies for a set period of time, for example, 6 months or a year. In this situation it’s best if the provisions set out both a start and end date for your responsibilities.
  • You are only liable for any debt owed divided by the number of tenants sharing the property. So, for example, in a situation where the tenant is sharing with 3 others, the guarantee only extends to 25% of the rent for any one month.

However, many landlords aren’t willing to limit a guarantor’s liability. So, they may not agree. But it’s probably worth asking.

About this guide


The information in this guide applies to England.

The law is complicated. We have simplified things in this guide. Please don’t rely on this guide as a complete statement of the law. We recommend you try and get advice from the sources we have suggested.

The cases we refer to are not always real but show a typical situation. We have included them to help you think about how to deal with your own situation.


October 2022

This guide was updated with thanks to funding from Help Accessing Legal Support (HALS).


March 2018

This short guide was written and produced by Law for Life thanks to funding from TDS Charitable Foundation.

We would like to thank all those who provided feedback on this guide.
In particular we would like to thank Allen and Overy for their support.

5 Reviews

Limiting liability

After asking for a formal limit to the liability, a landlord has tried to make me liable for up to three years' rent, (i.e. much more than any unpaid rent coud ever accrue), presumably in the case of damage and costs incurred by tenant activities, actions etc. that aren't covered by his insurance. Effectively he's asking me to be a free insurance company. This is more than a year's salary for me. Surely that is just unreasonable?

on the 13 / 08 / 2023

Lease copy

As a guarantor, do I have a right to get a copy of the lease?

on the 25 / 11 / 2021

guarantor advice

Very helpful start in considering the issues as how best to support family.

on the 08 / 10 / 2020

Legal costs

My concern is whether as a guarantor I might be liable for any legal costs the landlord incurs and compensation for a void after the guaranteed tenants have left.

on the 04 / 02 / 2020


Very useful thank you

on the 17 / 04 / 2019

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