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
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”
Carefully explain each to every new tenant.