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Lodgers and subtenants – what’s the difference?

Rights, responsibilities and legal status.

lodgers and subtenants whats the difference

While most of us have a pretty good, broad understanding of the dynamic of a landlord and tenant relationship, when it comes to lodgers and subtenants this is often where things get a little more complex. So, we’ve decided to provide a very quick guide to the basics of the difference between a lodger and a subtenant.

Who do you rent from? A lodger rents from the landlord or the person who owns the property, whereas a subtenant rents from another tenant. A subtenant’s landlord is the tenant who is renting to them (called the ‘immediate landlord’) and that tenant’s landlord is referred to as the ‘head landlord.’

What are you renting? A lodger rents a room in a home and is normally living with the landlord. Facilities and bills are usually shared. A subtenant rents the whole or part of the property from another tenant.

Who has more rights? A subtenant generally has more rights than a lodger (although this will depend on whether the subtenancy has been properly set up). These rights include the right to challenge a rent increase and the right to occupy the part of the property being rented without interference from anyone else. However, a subtenant living with the immediate landlord has far fewer rights.

Lodgers don’t have exclusive rights to the space they are renting, which means that the landlord can enter that space without a lodger’s permission.

What about repairs? Lodgers don’t have tenancy agreements and the relationship between a lodger and a landlord is based on a licence agreement (although a landlord doesn’t have to provide a lodger with a contract). This means that lodgers don’t have the protections that apply to tenancy agreements that are contained in the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985. However, landlords are still responsible for ensuring a property is in proper condition.

Are deposits protected? Normally a lodger will be required to hand over a deposit to the landlord at the start of the arrangement to cover any damage done or any missing items. However, the landlord is under no responsibility to protect this deposit in the same way as for a tenancy. This question is more complicated for subtenants and depends on the specific arrangements in place. If the sub tenancy created is an Assured Shorthold Tenancy then the deposit must be protected in the normal way.

Moving out. A landlord only needs to give a lodger ‘reasonable notice’ when asking them to move out – this is not legally defined and could be a very short period of time. In general, subtenants have more protection from eviction than lodgers. However, if the subtenancy has not been accepted by the head landlord and the immediate landlord’s tenancy ends then evicting a subtenant is easy and quick for a landlord.

Accepting a sub tenancy. Ensuring that a subtenancy is accepted is key for subtenant protection. This essentially means that the head landlord is aware of it and has accepted it. The best way to ensure this is to pay rent directly to the landlord – this indicates a right to occupy the accommodation even if there has been no original permission to sublet.

For more information on renting issues, take a look at our help and advice guides or post a question to the community in our forums.

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