Half of all subletting in the private rental sector occurs without the landlord’s consent, according to the National Landlords Association (NLA). But would you know if your tenants were subletting your property?
This guide will help to prevent and stop illegal subletting.
Why it’s a problem
Unauthorised subletting can cause cramped living conditions. Too many tenants in one home can be uncomfortable and dangerous. It can break licensing laws and invalidate your insurance.
You may have heard of a rent-to-rent scheme, where a landlord and a middleman sign a contract and the middleman sublets the rooms out individually. However, this can also occur illegally.
Samantha Miles, of Just Landlords, explains: “This can also be an illegal rent-to-rent, where the middleman poses as the tenant but does not move into the property. Either way, the landlord has lost control of the property and has no idea who is living there.
“This could invalidate their insurance and also be in breach of any buy-to-let mortgage terms. Another issue with renting out rooms, or the tenants subletting, could be that the property falls into a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) and would need a license. Without a license, there will be strict penalties for the landlord if caught.”
Your tenancy agreement should include your policy on subletting, but it is still possible that your tenants may begin renting out a room without your permission anyway.
So how do you prevent it?
Communicate with tenants
You should not only include your policy on subletting in your agreement, but also discuss it with them at the start of the tenancy. This way, you are not relying on them reading the agreement. Explain how you would address a request to sublet. Do not focus on penalties, but detail the importance of communication.
Before they move in
From 1st February, you must check the immigration status of all prospective tenants, meaning that you will take a copy of photographic identification. If you have this on file, you will be able to recognise your tenants when you inspect the property, quickly identifying if someone is living in your property that shouldn’t be.
It is vital that landlords inspect their properties, particularly if you are suspicious of subletting. Regularly visit the property and look out for anyone other than the agreed tenants living there. Also, look out for evidence of other people in the property, such as extra toothbrushes or clothes.
Keep a diary
Whenever you make a property inspection, you should record it in a diary. This way, you can ensure that you visit each of your rental properties regularly and keep any notes together.
Know the law
If you do find that your tenants are illegally subletting your property, you should be well informed on the actions you can take. Make sure you know the law and your rights.