Are you liable for your partner's debts?

Annie Shaw / 02 October 2014 ( 06 July 2016 )

Saga Magazine money expert Annie Shaw deals with a reader's family money dilemma.

A reader writes:

My daughter has finished university and obtained a job. She has set up home with her latest boyfriend, who is also working.

She has signed a joint rental agreement for a flat and has also set up a joint bank account for the payment of all household bills including food and rent, etc.

Unfortunately her boyfriend has a poor track record with money. Would she have any responsibility for any debt that he builds up?

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Annie Shaw replies:

I am sorry to be the bringer of bad tidings but, when it comes to debts, your daughter is responsible for all of everything that they have jointly put their names to.

If the joint account goes overdrawn and the boyfriend fails to put it back into credit, your daughter will be responsible for the debt. The same goes for the rental agreement. 

Under most rental arrangements if the agreement is in joint names, each of the tenants is "jointly and severally" responsible for paying the rent. 

In other words they are both responsible for all of it, not just "their half". If he refuses to pay, the landlord can come after your daughter for his money.

Your daughter would not, however, be responsible for any of her boyfriend's personal private debt, such as loans and credit cards in his name only. 

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Financial relationships

She needs to be careful however because, by having some loan and credit agreements jointly, she has created a "financial relationship" with her boyfriend which will show up on her credit file and could affect her ability to get credit in future.

If things go bad and they split up she could still be held responsible for the joint agreements, but once these are paid off she could have a "notice of disassociation" entered on her credit file to indicate that she is no longer linked to him and should not be affected by any of his other financial arrangements.

There's some more information on joint finances from the credit reference agency Experian on its website.

Read Annie Shaw's money articles every month in Saga Magazine.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.