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Primary vs. Secondary Leaseholder

You may have decided to live in a rental unit with a roommate. Maybe it was to avoid the stress of living alone in a single-family home. Maybe you wanted to share the responsibilities of monthly rent payments or security deposits. Or perhaps you simply wanted to live with a friend in your primary residence. Sharing a lease agreement as renters has many partnership benefits, but it can also lead to some confusion.

One question you might have is whether there is a difference between primary and secondary leaseholders. Does one roommate in a multifamily property have more power than the other during the tenancy? This article provides information on frequently asked questions (FAQ) for first-time renters.

What's the Difference? Primary vs. Secondary Leaseholder

Under landlord-tenant law, there's no legal difference between a primary leaseholder and a secondary leaseholder. But that changes if the terms of the lease explicitly state otherwise. This means that both co-tenants have occupancy of the rental property from a landlord for the same period of time. The landlord receives rental income from both through the end of the lease. Each co-tenant is equally responsible for nonpayment and their share of expenses. This is a different relationship than that between a tenant and a subtenant.

Tenant vs. Subtenant

A tenant and subtenant relationship is different from a primary and secondary leaseholder tenancy. While a new tenant rents property directly from a landlord, a subtenant effectively rents property from that tenant. This is known as subleasing. It is generally best for a tenant and potential subtenant to discuss the sublease with the property owner. The landlord and tenant should have something in writing confirming that subleasing is okay.

A landlord may prohibit subleasing, and such a violation can end up tying both a tenant and subtenant in an eviction case. An eviction lawsuit can negatively affect a tenant's credit score. It can also create animosity between the tenant and the homeowner or property manager who has rented out the premises. For these reasons, an amicable discussion between the landlord and tenant benefits all sides.

Legal Resources for Tenants

Renting real estate can be intimidating, and the legal language can be confusing. A landlord might want to protect their investment property, while tenants want to get the most bang for their buck. You may have legal questions about your state laws, rental agreement, and tenant rights. You should consider contacting an experienced landlord-tenant lawyer. They can give you legal advice and assistance with tenancy in different types of real estate. That includes both residential and commercial real estate.

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