What is a guarantor?
A guarantor is a third party, such as a parent or close relative, who agrees to pay your rent if you don’t pay it. Your landlord can ultimately take legal action to recover any unpaid rent from your guarantor.
Your landlord may want to check that your guarantor is able to pay the rent in the same way that they’ve checked your ability to pay. For example - by carrying out a credit check.
There is a legal requirement for a guarantee agreement to be in writing. The agreement sets out the guarantor’s legal obligations.
Is a guarantor only liable for unpaid rent?
It depends on what the agreement says. In many cases, a guarantee agreement also extends to other conditions under the tenancy, for example, any damage caused to the property.
If an agreement does extend to other conditions of the tenancy, then it’s best that the guarantor checks the tenancy agreement. This way they can see exactly what obligations they are guaranteeing.
Does the guarantor have to live in the UK?
Landlords will usually want a guarantor who lives in the UK, as it’s easier for them to take legal action against a UK resident if they need to.
This may present a problem for you if you’re an international student, so if you can’t get a UK-based guarantor, you may be asked to pay more rent in advance.
Guarantors of tenants who live in shared accommodation
If you share accommodation with other tenants under one tenancy agreement, that is, a joint tenancy, it’s common for the guarantee to apply to all of the rent, and not just your share.
It’s best to check the guarantee agreement carefully and ask the landlord or agent any questions if something is unclear. As soon as the agreement is signed, the guarantor is bound by its terms and conditions.
It may be possible to negotiate with the landlord for a variation to a guarantee agreement. This would ensure that the guarantor’s liability was confined to only your rent payments or any damage caused by you.
When does the guarantor’s liability end?
This depends on what the guarantee agreement says and/or what is agreed verbally.
Many guarantee agreements are open-ended and will refer to liability ‘under this tenancy/agreement’. This means that liability could extend beyond the fixed term, to any extension, as well as to certain variations such as rent increases.
If this is the case, the guarantor’s liability may continue for as long as the tenancy exists and will only end if the tenancy is legally ended by:
- service of a valid notice to quit by the tenant, or
- by mutual surrender of the tenancy between the landlord and tenant, or
- a possession order from the court.
It may be possible to argue that an open-ended guarantor agreement is not enforceable, but a court would have to decide this.
A variation in the tenancy agreement
A variation in the tenancy agreement could bring the guarantor’s liability to an end. For example, a change to the rent or a renewal of the tenancy would count as a variation unless:
- the agreement said that the guarantee applies to any future variations or renewals, or
- the guarantor consents to the variation.
Checking the guarantee agreement
It’s always best to check any guarantee agreement carefully so that the guarantor knows how and when their liability ends. It may be possible to negotiate a variation to the guarantee agreement so that the guarantor’s liability is limited. For example, by specifying the start and end dates the agreement applies to, such as the length of the original fixed term only.
Unfair terms in a guarantee agreement
If a guarantee agreement is in a standard form rather than one that has been negotiated individually, it may be possible to challenge a standard term if it is considered unfair.
A term may be unfair if it creates a ‘significant imbalance’ between the parties to the agreement. If a term is held to be unfair then it cannot be relied on and has no effect in law.
You can refer a possible unfair contract term to the local authority’s Trading Standards Officer, who should be able to provide further guidance.