United Kingdom

Are your tenants secretly subletting?

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A key box on a door

Short-term lettings platform Airbnb has caused fury in the private rented sector by encouraging private tenants to rent out their spare rooms.

Airbnb’s survey – since removed from their website – found that 80% of tenants are looking for ways to make more money due to the rising cost of living, and suggested that subletting could help. The platform also suggested that it could be good for landlords as it would reduce the risk of rent arrears.

But private rented sector experts have pointed out that subletting is extremely risky for landlords. Tenants risk accidentally turning a property into an HMO if there are at least three people from at least two separate households living there. Breaching HMO regulations is a “strict liability” offence for landlords, meaning that they can be prosecuted even if they didn’t know that their property was being sublet.

How widespread is the issue?

According to insurance provider Direct Line, 13% of tenants admit to subletting all or part of their home. Only around half told their landlords that they were doing so, and less than a quarter checked their tenancy agreements to see if they were allowed to.

That can lead to landlords being caught out – like Fiona Wyllie, whose story was picked up by the Daily Mail this month. After being alerted by a neighbour, she discovered that her £2,200-a-month London flat was being rented out on Airbnb at £280 a night.

Subletting may or may not be a breach of the tenancy agreement depending on the circumstances:

  • If the tenancy agreement contains a term about subletting, whether that is to allow or ban it, that term will always apply. If the agreement requires the tenant to seek the landlord’s permission, permission cannot be unreasonably withheld.
  • If there is no term about subletting in the tenancy agreement and the tenant is in a fixed-term tenancy, the tenant can sublet without the landlord’s consent.
  • If there is no term about subletting in the tenancy agreement and the tenant is in a periodic tenancy, they must get permission from the landlord, which can be refused for any reason.

Landlords and agents who want to prevent subletting can include a term in their tenancy agreements to prevent it, and if necessary, evict for breach of tenancy. Inspections and searches of short-term let websites can also help determine if any unauthorised subletting is taking place.

Other short term let headlines

‘Short lets offer returns of up to five times traditional lets’ – LandlordZONE

Our city is flooded with pop-up brothels and stag parties thanks to short-term lets, people of Cambridge say – Daily Mail

Is the taxman coming for your side hustle? Airbnb to hand over income data to HMRC – This Is Money

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