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The scourge of sub-letting

  01 Jul 2019

Allowing someone move into a buy-to-let you own is a trust exercise. While good referencing and the instincts of a professional letting agent will provide asset protection, what happens after a tenant moves in can go undetected without vigilance.

When a tenant becomes a landlord

Sub-letting is when a tenant rents out the property they are residing in, or lets out a room within that property. It’s a poacher turned gamekeeper situation, where a third-party who isn’t on the tenancy agreement moves in to a property at the arrangement of the tenant and not the landlord.

Why sub-let?

There are a number of reasons why a tenant may sublet. They may be struggling to pay the rent, need to move on quickly, wish to go travelling and return to the property or simply want to make money by renting out a room they’re not using or the entire property for a higher amount than they are paying the landlord.

The problem with sub letting

Many landlords choose a letting agency for the thorough vetting process it offers. The credit, employment and character checks performed gives the landlord reassurance about the nature of the tenant moving in to their property. Unauthorised subletting bypasses this referencing stage, so the landlord has no idea who is staying at the property.

It’s also worth remembering that almost every tenancy agreement – and many mortgages- prohibit sub-letting, and it can also invalidate insurance policies. Subletting needs to be authorised by the landlord and if not, they have the right to evict the tenant or take legal action.

Sub letting and short, holiday lets

The scourge of sub letting has spilled in to short-term holiday lets and in a survey by the Residential Landlords Association, 15% of landlords reported their tenants had been seen advertising a room on Airbnb and similar sites without permission. In fact, landlords in London are most likely to experience this, with 48% of the properties being sublet located in the capital.

 Overcrowding and crossing the HMO line

Sub letting doesn’t always have to mean renting out a whole property – tenants can often spot the financial potential of renting out multiple rooms. As well as increasing the wear and tear on the property, other problems can arise.

If a rental property exceeds a local authority’s definition of a house in multiple occupation (HMO), the landlord may need to apply for planning permission for change of use, secure a licence and comply with additional HMO health and safety aspects.

How can landlords protect themselves?

It’s extremely important to have regular property inspections to spot for signs of sub letting.  The Jezzards approach is to visit let properties and follow up with an in-depth inspection report. Our trained professional eye will look for the obvious and more subtle signs of sub letting, which can include:

  • A tenant making it difficult for a landlord or agent to arrange an inspection
  • Complaints from neighbours or the council of more than the expected number of people entering and leaving the property
  • A property being advertised online without the landlord’s permission
  • Extra clothing or bedding in the property, especially if it’s in the living room
  • More refuse/waste being created than expected
  • Signs of increased wear and tear in the property

If you’d like Jezzards to be your eyes and ears – inspecting your buy-to-let on a regular basis and alerting you to anything suspicious – please ask about our professional management service by clicking here to contact us.


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