Problems with subletting

Almost half of tenants in the Private Rented Sector who sublet their property do so without their landlordís consent, according to new findings from the National Landlords Association (NLA). The findings come as the government recently announced proposals to introduce minimum room sizes in order to crack down on problems with private rented accommodation such as unauthorised subletting, which often results in overcrowded and cramped properties.

Overall, the findings show that around a third (32 per cent) of tenants have approached their landlord about subletting their property, with a fifth (22 per cent) of requests being permitted by the landlord. The findings suggest that although subletting is not common in private rented homes, where it does happen, much of it takes place without the landlordsí knowledge or permission.

Carolyn Uphill, Chairman of the NLA, said: ďThis isnít something apparently harmless, like putting your flat on AirBnB while you are on holiday. We are talking about individuals looking to deceive their landlord and maximise their personal gains at the expense of proper property management standards and the risk of others. It not only increases the cost of renting for the unwitting sub-tenants, it affects their rights and can reduce security of tenure. Subletting can also breach a landlordís mortgage terms, the conditions attached to licenses granted for letting out shared homes, and invalidate existing insurance products - so they must be aware of the problems it presents."

The NLA advises all landlords to insert a clause into new tenancy agreements that makes clear sub-letting is only allowed with the landlordís permission. In some circumstances it's acceptable to sublet, but generally the landlord's permission is required. Landlords can take legal action against tenants who sublet without permission. If the tenancy agreement has been broken as a consequence the landlord can also take action to evict.

The problem of subletting has been a far greater problem in the social housing sector. At least 100,000 social housing properties are the subject of housing fraud, according to estimates. As a result, in 2013, the government introduced new legislation (The Prevention of Social Housing Fraud Act) to tackle the issue. The act made tenancy fraud a criminal matter Ė and local authorities have the power to prosecute those who unlawfully sublet their social housing. The act only applies to social housing tenants and introduced two new criminal offences. Firstly, where the tenant sublets or parts with possession of a property or ceases to occupy knowing that it is a breach of tenancy. The second, more serious offence is where a tenant dishonestly, in breach of tenancy, sublets without consent and ceases to occupy the property as their only or principal home.

The first offence only requires knowledge that the tenant sublet their home in breach of their tenancy agreement, the second requires proof this was done dishonestly. With the growing pressure on housing there will be a greater temptation for tenants to sublet and landlords should at least be aware of the possibility that there maybe people in their property who are not on the tenancy agreement. Landlords who are worried that subletting may be occurring in their properties without their permission should seek advice about their position from a professional such as a solicitor.

Parkinson Property

4th December 2015


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