It’s not unheard of for tenants to sublet their rental property, either letting the entire property to someone else for more money than they’re paying the landlord, or cramming in extra people to make some additional cash.
Both of these can create problems for you as the landlord because you won’t necessarily know who is living in your property and if you have more people living in the property than planned, you could suffer additional wear and tear.
You might not care who is living in your property as long as they’re paying the rent, as the tenant who signed the contract will ultimately be responsible for making sure you get paid and for any damage caused, but there are other issues to consider.
If you don’t know who is living in your property, you won’t have vetted them and they might not be suitable tenants. Also, subletting might cause problems of overcrowding, creating health and safety issues, and if there is excess noise this might prompt a complaint from the neighbours to your local authority.
Tell-tale signs that your property is being sublet include the following:
- Tenants refusing to give you access for routine inspections or maintenance, such as gas safety checks.
- Evidence that there are too many people living in the property, such as lots of coats or shoes in the hallway.
- Extra beds, or blow-up mattresses, in the bedrooms and living areas.
- Bedding stuffed into cupboards, wardrobes or under sofas.
- More toothbrushes than the number of people on the tenancy agreement, or signs of excess wear and tear in the bathroom and kitchen
- If you are paying the energy bills, higher than expected costs.
- Neighbours complaining of lots of people coming and going.
So, how can you avoid tenants subletting your property behind your back?
The best way is to carry out regular inspections, particularly at the start of the tenancy. You will need to get your tenants’ permission to enter the property, and you ought to give them at least 48 hours’ notice, but if they refuse access, you should be suspicious.
A friend of mine had reason to believe that there were more tenants living in her property than the number who’d signed the tenancy agreement, but when she confronted them they denied they had sublet. Still suspicious, she advised them she would be carrying out a routine inspection at 9am one morning. However she arrived outside the property at 8am and sat in her car waiting. At 8.45, two people she didn’t recognise came out of the front door carrying a mattress! Needless to say, she told the tenants they were in breach of their tenancy agreement for subletting and gave them notice to leave. They didn’t argue.
I had a similar problem with a tenant who had sublet his room in a shared flat to a woman, who I happened to bump into one day when I was at the property carrying out some routine maintenance. I asked her who she was and instead of answering me she walked into the bedroom and refused to come out! I asked the other tenants who she was and none of them knew, but they said she’d been living there for several weeks. I told the tenant who’d rented the room that if she hadn’t left within 48 hours I’d serve him with an eviction notice.
Neither my friend nor I would have known our properties had been sublet if we hadn’t checked on them regularly, which is one of the reasons why routine inspections are vital.