Joint and Several Liability Lease V. Individual Liability Lease
In Michigan, when you sign a lease agreement, you sign a contract. Whether you are a tenant or a landlord, you contractually have obligations to perform certain duties and assume certain responsibilities. Under every lease agreement, a landlord and tenant have certain rights and protections.
Commonly, there are two different contracts you would sign if you were going to rent an apartment or house with other people. The first is a Joint and Several Liability lease. The lease will state if more than one person signs the lease as a tenant, the lease may state that their obligations are “joint and several.” Which means; the individual is responsible not only for his or her personal obligations, but as well as the obligations of all other tenants. That includes paying rent and performing all other terms of the lease.
The second typical lease is an individual liability lease. This lease states if more than one person signs the lease as a tenant, the lease may state that their obligations are “individual.” Which means; the individual is solely responsible for his or her specific obligations. For example, paying rent and performing all other terms of the lease.
Scenario: It is the end of your freshman year and you are excited to move out of the dorm and into your own apartment. Together with the other students in your room you attend a rent party where all four of you sign an apartment lease as joint and several tenants. As the fall semester starts all of the roommates are getting along just fine until one night with too much alcohol involved two of the roommates start getting physical resulting into a fist fight and as a result one of the roommates moves out. The three of you scramble to find another roommate for the open room, but have no luck. Your landlord is calling you nonstop and getting annoyed that he or she is not getting the money for the one roommate’s rent. Since, you and your roommates signed a lease that has a joint and several liability clause, you and your other two roommates would be liable to pay her portion of the rent. The landlord has the right to come after you and the other roommates for the remainder of the rent. If the landlord prevails against you in court you would then have to sue your former roommate for contribution. In this situation the landlord has the option to take all of you to court or just one of you. Regardless, all of you would be responsible to pay contribution for any sums paid on your behalf by the other.
Written by Gino Aquino, Todd Levitt