Joint and several liability

Entering into a credit agreement with another person means that, as you’ve probably guessed, you’re both liable to repay the full debts relating to that agreement – hence the term joint and several liability.

This means that if you’ve got a joint credit agreement (like a joint loan) and your partner or spouse fails to keep up with payments, your lender is within their rights to pursue you for the full amount. They can even take legal action against you, either together or separately, to recover the money.

Does this mean a lender could recover the money twice?

No. Your lender can only ever recover the amount owed to them once and not a penny more, but they can pursue one or both of you until you’ve repaid them.

How do I know if the agreement I’m in falls under joint and several liability?

For an agreement to be joint and several, it must be signed by both you and the other person (this is usually your partner or spouse or business partner).

If a lender is claiming that you’re jointly liable for a debt but you don’t think this is the case, then ask them to send you a copy of the original credit agreement. If you didn’t sign it, you can’t be held liable to repay the debt.

What types of loans can have joint and several liability?

Many different types of loans and credit agreements can be taken out jointly. These include mortgages, tenancies, secured loans, second mortgages, council tax, water charges, and some unsecured loans.

What about credit cards?

Credit cards can’t ever be taken out jointly, so you don’t need to worry about joint and several liability where credit cards are concerned if you split up with a partner, spouse etc.  

Even if both you and your partner have a card on the same credit card account, the only person liable for the repayments on it will be the main cardholder – the person who signed the application for the credit card.

If you still need help, you could contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB), visit the PayPlan website at www.payplan.com or call our Advice Team on 0800 917 7819.