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  • Writer's pictureElliot Leigh

Signs That Your Property is being Illegally Sublet

overfull mail box inside an apartment in low lighting

A sublet is created when an existing tenant lets some or all of their home to another tenant - the subtenant. In the UK, subletting is legal if the tenancy agreement explicitly states so. In most cases, however, a tenant will need their landlord's permission before they can sublet their home; it could be considered unlawful otherwise. Despite this, 1 in 10 tenants admitted to illegally subletting their rental properties, according to a Direct Line Survey conducted in 2023.

Why should you be concerned about unlawful subletting?

Even if you are still receiving regular rent payments & seem to be receiving no complaints from neighbours, there are a number of reasons that a Landlord should be cautious about unlawful subletting. These are as follows:

  • Unlawful subletting can breach terms of mortgage & invalidate your insurance.

  • Regaining possession of your property can become a lengthier and more expensive process.

  • Depending on the number of people that are subletting, it could qualify your property as an HMO (House in Multiple Occupation). If this is the case, the council can fine you for not meeting HMO Regulations.

  • Having no contact details or background checks of those living in your property could be detrimental (if not working with a letting agent) due to possible activities these tenants may be undertaking.

What are the signs of illegal subletting?

As a landlord, it can be challenging to spot illegal subletting seeing as you cannot enter the rental property whenever you want. When you carry out inspections, it is important to look for these signs:

  • Multiple Occupants: The most obvious sign of illegal subletting is multiple occupants within the property. This may also be signified by an increase in belongings such as more beds/mattresses, toothbrushes or clothing located in the property.

  • Increases in Post & Deliveries: If your property is being sublet, you may notice a higher quantity of post and deliveries arriving at the property, particularly if addressed to names that are not stated on the tenancy agreement.

  • Avoiding Inspections & Refusing Entry: If tenants are often refusing entry or are absent for inspections, it could signify that they don’t actually live there or they have an illegal subtenant.

What to Do if a Tenant is Illegally Subletting

If you discover than your tenant is illegally subletting, it is important to understand your rights and take action immediately. Below we have outlined what you should do:

  • Gather Evidence: If you suspect a tenant of subletting, it is crucial to look for signs & gather evidence. Keep a record of your communication with your tenants and take photos/videos where possible.

  • Review your Tenancy Agreement: Ensure that your tenancy agreement explicitly states that subletting is not permitted.

  • Communicate with Your Tenant: Raise your concerns with your tenant and ask them to confirm who is living in the property. Remind them that subletting is not permitted - a simple conversation may be enough to resolve the issue.

  • Contact your Local Council: If you have reasonable grounds to believe that a tenant is subletting their property, contact your local council to file a report., including if they receive housing benefits. If required, they will investigate and may take enforcement action.

  • Take Legal Action: If an agreement cannot be reached you may have to take legal action. Notify the tenant that they have breached the contract and may face eviction. Eviction is an expensive, lengthy process so be sure to give the tenant time to amend the situation. If the fail to do so, you have the right to serve a Section 8 under Ground 12.

How to Prevent Illegal Subletting

Whilst there is no sure-fire way to prevent subletting, the following tips should deter your tenant from engaging in the activity:

  • Ensure your tenancy agreement is clear: Ensure that your tenancy agreement explicitly states that subletting is not allowed or that permission is required. 

  • Maintain communication with tenants: Building up a good relationship with your tenants will help you spot any issues and make resolving the issues a lot easier.

  • Conduct Reference Checks: Conducting reference checks will help you to verify a tenant’s employment status and rental & financial history.

  • Conduct Regular Inspections: Regular inspections are not only important to check that your property is being kept to a good standard, but it will also be the key to working out if your property is being unlawfully sublet.

Consider Property Management

Ensuring your property is not being sublet can be a difficult task for landlords, especially when you potentially have multiple properties to manage. A property management company like Elliot Leigh can offer landlords convenience, expertise, and peace of mind by handling various aspects of property ownership and management via our dedicated property management team. This includes undertaking regular inspections on behalf of the landlord. It's a valuable investment for those looking to optimise their time & mitigate risks. To learn more, please don't hesitate to get in touch today.

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