Lease Contracts – The Meaning of "Joint" and "Several"

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

entire amount.

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.