How to stop being guarantor for a tenancy?

I signed up as a guarantor (and paid what I believed was a deposit) on a house (for someone I classed as family) a couple of years ago. When I re-signed (after the initial 6 months) I was only given the last two pages of the tenancy agreement to sign and I was told that nothing had changed other than I was led to believe that I was signing for 12 months. 
Unfortunately, since then, his wife has returned (she had set up home with someone else 200 miles away) and everything has gone to poo. The house is a mess and she has managed to convince him to turn his back on everyone who has helped him in the past (friends and relatives). 
I didn't agree to be guarantor for a house that involved her. But more than that, I have found out that the rent has been increased and that I am now, apparently, tied into a "rolling contract" and the rent can be increased annually. 
Before this current pandemic appeared, I went to talk to the letting agents face to face and they assured me that everything had been clearly written in the contract I had signed. I asked for a copy and all they had were electronic copies on file that were the original and the last two pages of the second (exactly as I remembered). They insisted that this was just a clerical error and that the rest of the contract was locked away (but the agent I had dealt with had left the firm and the person with access was conveniently off that day). Furthermore, when I tried to insist that (if the tenancy ended) the deposit should be returned to me, they explained that no actual deposit existed. It transpires that the money I was told was being used for a deposit was just a month's rent in advance. 
When I signed the original, I did so about a week before my (then) mate went in to finalise everything and I had naively assumed that any blanks (such as the deposit section or length of the agreement) would be completed when he signed to collect the keys. My copy of the original is blank. The print out the agents gave me (supposedly the original) had the new (increased) rent in red and the deposit is still blank. 
On returning home I emailed the agents telling them that I was no longer prepared to act as guarantor and asked them to contact the tenant to ask him to arrange for someone else to assume this role. I followed this up with a hard copy by recorded delivery. I have received absolutely no response whatsoever. My attempts to contact my (ex) mate have resulted in nastiness and threats. 
So what can I do? Having this hanging over me like the sword of Damacles is genuinely making me ill. It is the last thing I think of before I manage to sleep and the first thing when I wake up. I cannot afford to pay for making the house and garden right if they leave. The last thing I want to do is cause a situation that results in the family having to move out because the kids are happy there and it is ideally situated for their school but I am terrified of a massive bill arriving if they choose to move (or worse get evicted for not paying the rent, which is something that happened to his wife a couple of times before they got together). 
Your help and advice will be greatly appreciated. 

Replies

  • edited 6 October 2020 at 10:32AM
    AdrianCAdrianC Forumite
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    edited 6 October 2020 at 10:32AM
    You agreed to guarantee the tenancy. Initially, it sounds like that was a six-month fixed term tenancy, then you signed a further twelve-month fixed term tenancy. When that fixed term ends, the tenancy itself does not end - it becomes periodic, until such time as a new tenancy is signed or the tenant moves out. Rent increases during the tenancy have to be described in the tenancy itself, else they're unenforceable. Normally, they would just be inflationary.

    The only way to stop being guarantor for a tenancy is for the tenancy to end.
    And, yes, that means either they move out, or they sign a new tenancy (without you as guarantor). Until then, you are legally bound by your guarantee... After all, a guarantee that could be quickly and easily rescinded unilaterally by the guarantor would be just about utterly worthless, wouldn't it?
    "Mr Guarantor, you need to pay the tenant's debt."
    "Nah, don't feel like it. Changed my mind..."
    "Oh, OK. Bye."

    As guarantor, your only involvement in the tenancy is to pay anything (and everything) the tenant is liable for but does not pay themselves.
    A landlord would be foolish to invoke that before the final debt is known - once the tenancy has ended, vacant possession has been regained, and all other routes to get the tenant to settle the debt themselves have been extinguished.
    It's not the agency's fault if you didn't read or keep a copy of the deed of guarantee you signed.
  • edited 6 October 2020 at 11:00AM
    eddddyeddddy Forumite
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    edited 6 October 2020 at 11:00AM

    Who told you that your initial payment was a deposit, rather than a month's rent payment?
    • If it was the agent that told you - you would argue that it was misrepresentation by the agent
    • If it was your friend that told you - it might be closer to fraud, committed by your friend

    For the moment, based on what you've said, just write to the agent saying that...

    • You were told that the initial payment you made would be used as a deposit, therefore you expect the deposit to be returned to you at the end of the tenancy. If it is not returned, you will take legal advice on how to persue the matter.

    • You were only given the last two pages of a guarantor's contract to sign (if that's what happened). And the agent has confirmed that you were only given two pages. Therefore, you had no knowledge of the other pages, and could not have agreed to their content.

    • If the agent decides to make a claim from you through the courts, clearly a court will agree that you did not agree to a contract which you were never given a copy of.

    It's very unlikely the agent will agree with you - in fact they're likely to say that they strongly disagree.

    So all you can do is try to forget about it, until the agent tries to claim some money from you. Then you just re-state the above. Ultimately, the agent might decide to take you to court - so you'd explain the above to the court, and see what they decide.


    Edit to add...
    The above is all based on what you seem to have said in your post. If you've missed out any significant facts, or I've misunderstood, the situation might be different.
  • saajan_12saajan_12 Forumite
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    SST22 said:
    I signed up as a guarantor (and paid what I believed was a deposit) on a house (for someone I classed as family) a couple of years ago. When I re-signed (after the initial 6 months) I was only given the last two pages of the tenancy agreement to sign and I was told that nothing had changed other than I was led to believe that I was signing for 12 months. - for a guarantee to be valid, you would need to have been given sufficient chance to see what you were guaranteeing. So if there were material changes, it may no longer be valid. However what counts as material and whether you can prove you weren't shown the full agreement is up to a court ultimately. 
    Unfortunately, since then, his wife has returned (she had set up home with someone else 200 miles away) and everything has gone to poo. The house is a mess and she has managed to convince him to turn his back on everyone who has helped him in the past (friends and relatives). - as guarantor, you wouldn't have a say in who lives there - the tenant is allowed to invite guests. As for mess, that would have been part of the deposit etc that you were guaranteeing. 
    I didn't agree to be guarantor for a house that involved her. But more than that, I have found out that the rent has been increased and that I am now, apparently, tied into a "rolling contract" and the rent can be increased annually. -the original could have become rolling anyway by statute, so no change there. How much was the increase and was it part of the new contract, or increased by S13 notice during the periodic? Debatable whether this would count as a material change which you would need to be aware of. 
    Before this current pandemic appeared, I went to talk to the letting agents face to face and they assured me that everything had been clearly written in the contract I had signed. I asked for a copy and all they had were electronic copies on file that were the original and the last two pages of the second (exactly as I remembered). They insisted that this was just a clerical error and that the rest of the contract was locked away (but the agent I had dealt with had left the firm and the person with access was conveniently off that day). Furthermore, when I tried to insist that (if the tenancy ended) the deposit should be returned to me, they explained that no actual deposit existed. It transpires that the money I was told was being used for a deposit was just a month's rent in advance. what receipt did you get for your money at the start? 
    When I signed the original, I did so about a week before my (then) mate went in to finalise everything and I had naively assumed that any blanks (such as the deposit section or length of the agreement) would be completed when he signed to collect the keys. My copy of the original is blank. The print out the agents gave me (supposedly the original) had the new (increased) rent in red and the deposit is still blank. - lesson learned I suppose.. never sign blank documents, just like you wouldn't sign a blank cheque. 
    On returning home I emailed the agents telling them that I was no longer prepared to act as guarantor and asked them to contact the tenant to ask him to arrange for someone else to assume this role. I followed this up with a hard copy by recorded delivery. I have received absolutely no response whatsoever. My attempts to contact my (ex) mate have resulted in nastiness and threats. - if you are a guarantor, then you can't unilatterally end this. Either the current guarantee is invalid (then nothing to be done) or its valid and you can't get out until the tenancy ends or materially changes. 
    So what can I do? Having this hanging over me like the sword of Damacles is genuinely making me ill. It is the last thing I think of before I manage to sleep and the first thing when I wake up. I cannot afford to pay for making the house and garden right if they leave. The last thing I want to do is cause a situation that results in the family having to move out because the kids are happy there and it is ideally situated for their school but I am terrified of a massive bill arriving if they choose to move (or worse get evicted for not paying the rent, which is something that happened to his wife a couple of times before they got together). 
    Your help and advice will be greatly appreciated. 

    The key is whether the guarantee was executed as a deed and valid in the first place: 
    - did it say the word 'Deed'?
    - was your signature witnessed?
    - did you have reasonable opportunity to view the contract you were guaranteeing, or has the contract materially changed from what you did see?

    If yes, then you're locked in as guarantor until the tenancy ends. It will be long and expensive for the LL to evict, which they likely wouldn't want to anyway, so you're relying on appealing to the tenant to find a new guarantor or move. 
    If no, then there's nothing further to be done. No doubt the LL / agent will try to enforce the guarantee if the tenant doesn't pay, so it may take some nerves to refuse their attempts and let it go to court if necessary. 
  • 2bFrank2bFrank Forumite
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    Unfortunately thats the whole point of a guarentee. Whilst you dint sign up for the wife to return, niether did the landlord, its not the landlords fault the wife has returned and caused issues with the tenency.
    However that being said, it looks like you have a s****y family, and I do feel for your situation. Remember for the landloard/ agents to claim against the tenency, they will have to ask for it, then take you to court, then a court will decide if you are liable.
    Your best bet is trying to get the tenecy ended by the tenents, but this seems unlikely. Other than that, you are powerless in the respect of the lardlord/ agent coming after you for the arrears/ damage etc, your best bet is to gather as much edivence you can to show that you are not responsible for this guarentee, it already seems that the agents have made a mistake with the contract, so look for ther mistakes they have made and keep a record, then you have something more to help your case when it goes to court.
  • swingaloo2swingaloo2 Forumite
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    My ex brother in law stood as guarantor for my brother 17 years ago. He divorced my sister 9 years ago and has had several attempts to stand down as he is no longer part of the family. He went to live abroad for 4 years  in 2014 and despite solicitors and my brother trying to help he was and still is guarantor.
    The only way it would be possible would be if my brother found another guarantor.  My brother was working when he took the house rental on and now is on benefits but my ex brother in law is still responsible if he does not pay his rent.
    At the time he offered he was a home owner as you had to be to be accepted. Now he rents himself and yet is still unable to get out of the situation. 
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