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Primary vs. Secondary Leaseholder

Created by FindLaw's team of legal writers and editors.

Last updated 11/01/2019

You may have decided to live with a roommate to avoid the stress of living alone, to save money, to share the responsibilities of renting, or simply to live with a friend. Sharing a lease has many 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 have more power than the other?

What's the Difference? Primary vs. Secondary Leaseholder

When it comes to rental leases, there is no legal difference between a primary leaseholder and a secondary leaseholder, unless the contract explicitly states otherwise.

In practical application, this means that both co-tenants are renting property from a landlord. Additionally, each co-tenant is equally responsible for paying their share of expenses on time. This is a different relationship than a tenant and a subtenant.

Tenant vs. Subtenant

Unlike primary and secondary leaseholders, the tenant/subtenant relationship is not legally equal.

Whereas a tenant rents property directly from a landlord, a subtenant effectively rents property from a tenant. This is known as subletting. It is generally best for a tenant and potential subtenant to discuss subletting with the property owner/landlord before engaging in a contract, as different landlords feel differently around tenants subletting rented property.

Legal Resources for Tenants

Renting property can be intimidating, as the legal language can be confusing. If tenants have any legal questions about their leases, contracts, etc., they should consider contacting an experienced landlord-tenant lawyer for advice and assistance.

Next Steps

Contact a qualified real estate attorney to help you navigate any landlord-tenant issues.

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