If you're renting a property as part of a group, you need to pay close attention to the tenancy agreement. The wording of this agreement can control what happens if one of the group moves out or causes damage. In many cases, the rest of the tenants can be held responsible for paying the extra rent as well as any rent that the former tenant hasn't paid.
Joint and several liability for rent
All tenants are expected to pay rent and your tenancy agreement should explain your responsibility to pay rent. In a shared property, you could either get your own tenancy agreement or have a single tenancy agreement which is signed by each individual tenant.
Check your tenancy agreement for a clause that states you are "jointly and severally liable" for rent. This clause means that your landlord has a choice to pursue an individual tenant or all the tenants as a group for any financial losses he or she incurs as a result of your tenancy.
If you are "jointly and severally liable" and one of the tenants leaves the property, the landlord can ask the rest of the tenants to make up the missing rent for the duration of the tenancy. Similarly, if one of your flatmates doesn't pay the rent, the landlord can choose to recover the money owed from just the person who didn't pay or can make the rest of you responsible for this debt. Your deposit could be kept to cover rent owed by one of your flatmates.
Damage caused by tenants
Joint liability covers damage as well as rent. So, if one of your housemates causes damage to the property the landlord can use money from everyone's deposits to pay for that damage. If the damage costs more than the full deposit, the landlord can claim against all of the tenants.
Talk to the flatmate who caused the problem to see if he or she is willing to cover the full costs. If your landlord secures an order against you and you were blameless. you will then have to take a separate action against the tenant at fault to try to recover your money.
Impact of tenancy agreements on guarantors
If you have provided a guarantor to your landlord and your tenancy agreement states that you are "jointly and severally liable", your guarantor could be held responsible for any unpaid rent or damages caused by other tenants in the property. Your guarantor should be given a copy of the tenancy agreement or should be given a guarantor's agreement which clearly explains what they are agreeing to.
If your landlord takes legal action against your guarantor for damages caused by another tenant in the property, your guarantor will have to take legal action against that tenant if he or she wants to get this money back.