Subletting is a bit of a touchy subject among tenants and landlords. Given the way in which rents have risen so astoundingly in recent years many tenants feel a certain resentment about what it costs to pay for temporary accommodation. These resentments, combined with very real financial pressures, can sometimes result in cutting corners when it comes to something like subletting. It may be that you’re offered a room ‘unofficially’ that is much cheaper because it doesn’t come with a tenancy agreement, or perhaps you’re going away and are loathed to pay for an empty room so you rent it out while you’re away without telling the landlord. The National Landlords Association (NLA) recently released information it had gathered that almost 50% of tenants who sublet have not told the landlord or got their consent – but what kind of risks are attached to this?
What is subletting?
Essentially, subletting happens when an existing tenant (i.e. the person who originally signed the tenancy agreement with the landlord) rents out some or all of the space they’re renting to someone else. That ‘someone else’ is the subtenant and the original tenant becomes their landlord.
Is subletting ok?
No. In most situations, subletting will be excluded by the tenancy agreement – to protect the landlord against people he or she hasn’t agreed to occupying the property. Tenants who sublet without the landlord’s permission will be in breach of their tenancy agreement and the landlord can start proceedings to remove them from the property.
What counts as subletting?
Each individual tenancy agreement will usually define what subletting is. Subletting could include any situation, from having a friend stay in your room for a couple of weeks and pay you some rent, to having someone permanently renting out the sofa.
Can you ever sublet legally?
If you’re a tenant looking to sublet your space to another tenant then get the landlord’s permission in writing. Anyone contemplating being a subtenant should ask for proof in writing that the landlord has agreed and then pay rent direct to the landlord, rather than to the tenant landlord (i.e. the tenant who signed the original tenancy agreement). It’s hard for a landlord to say that they haven’t consented to subletting if they’re receiving the subtenant’s rent.
What are the risks for tenants?
For a subtenant the risks are huge – subtenants have virtually no rights. Without a tenancy agreement or tenant status it’s difficult to reclaim your deposit, to avoid being evicted and you have virtually no security of rental.
What about landlords?
We rarely consider the impact of subletting on landlords but, according to the Association of Independent Inventory Clerks, illegal subletting in the UK is costing landlords thousands. Horror stories include 12 people living in a two bedroom flat and 27 people living in a three bedroom flat and working rotating shifts at the restaurant downstairs. The level of damage that can result from this kind of occupation is a serious problem for landlords and can really sour relations with future tenants.
What’s the solution?
If you really want to sublet it’s key to get the landlord involved. The same research that found that half of tenants don’t tell the landlord about subletting also found that a fifth of tenants who approached their landlord about sub-letting were allowed to go ahead. It’s not a huge percentage but it’s better odds than losing the roof over your head as a result of taking the illegal subletting risk.