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Subletting: here’s how to tell if your tenants have been doing it illegally

Subletting has long been one of the most controversial issues in the private rented sector. Despite it being illegal for tenants to sublet their rental home, apartment or flat without permission from their landlord, there are still a minority who try and get away with it.

How, though, can you tell if a tenant has been subletting your rental home illegally?

It’s important to remember that landlords can also suffer from an illegally sublet property, with a high likelihood that this would void any insurance you have on your rental home. So it pays to know for sure if your tenant has been breaching their tenancy agreement.

Neighbour complaints

If you or your letting agent begin to receive complaints from neighbours about an unusually high number of people coming and going from the house, this could be a tell-tale sign that something is up.

While lots of people coming and going from a home isn’t in itself an issue – and could have an entirely innocent explanation – it might be the sort of thing that arouses your suspicions, particularly if neighbours start to express their concerns.

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Anti-social behaviour

Neighbours may also raise concerns if anti-social behaviour – such as excess noise and rubbish – becomes an issue at your rental property. Anti-social behaviour could be another indicator that subletting is taking place.

You will have set out to your tenants in the tenancy agreement the rules and regulations regarding noise and mess, but there’s a good chance that a tenant who is subletting will neglect to pass this information down.

Of course, any evidence of anti-social behaviour will need to be nipped in the bud as soon as possible. When you or your letting agent go to investigate, you may discover that the property has been sublet and you can then take the necessary steps to deal with the situation. Anti-social behaviour and subletting aren’t mutually exclusive, but the former can be a sign of the latter taking place.

Difficult tenants

A tenant who is subletting your home without permission may seek to make it as difficult as possible for you to visit the property. If you have a tenant who is highly reluctant to allow you access to the property, or who causes issues when it comes to check-ups and regular inspections, alarm bells should start ringing about what they’re up to.

A tenant who has nothing to hide will be more than happy to work with you, whereas one who does may prove to be more obstructive.

More wear and tear

One of the biggest signs of subletting is extra and wear to your property. In addition, extra suitcases, extra toothbrushes and extra clothing or bedding are other signs that people could be living in your rental property without permission.

As we said above, excess rubbish may also make you suspicious.

What can be done about it?

While going in all guns-blazing will solve little, if you have solid suspicions about subletting taking place you have a right to investigate. You should let your letting agent know so they can take the necessary steps – and carry out due process – to work out if anything untoward is happening.

Despite stories in the press, illegal subletting is still very rare, but if you are the victim of it your agent can work to ensure the practice is ended.

There are also things that can mitigate the chances of subletting happening in the first place, including a thorough vetting process for would-be tenants and the joint signing of a legally approved tenancy agreement. Even with these pre-tenancy processes, however, you can’t completely eliminate the risk of subletting occurring.

That’s where the mid-tenancy inspections become so crucial, with your letting agent carrying out regular check-ups on your properties where they will be on the lookout for any tell-tale signs of subletting.

What about legal subletting?

Subletting isn’t illegal if tenants have permission from you, the landlord, to do it. If one of your tenants is keen to sublet, they will need to provide a written request laying out their reasons why and then giving you a good amount of time to respond. If a tenant presses too hard for permission to sublet, this might also increase your suspicions about their intentions.

If you opt to agree to their request, a new tenancy agreement will need to be drawn up to add the subletting terms and conditions. It’s absolutely essential when doing so that you take account of legal advice and consult insurers. That way there can be no confusion, mixed messages or disputes at a later date. If you decide not to allow subletting in your property, you’ll need to explain in writing your reasons and send this to your tenants. Before legally committing to such an arrangement, landlords will want to consider whether tenants who have sublet illegally are the sort of tenants who will follow the rules in future.

There are pros and cons to weigh up when it comes to deciding whether to allow your tenants to sublet or not. The majority of landlords won’t allow it, but it’s best to judge each case on its individual merits and consult your letting agent if you want to know more about the upsides and downsides.

At Letting Solutions, West Lothian’s first dedicated lettings agency, we have the experience and knowledge to help you get the most from your rental properties. Please get in touch with us on 01506 425693 to find out more.

We also provide free and instant online valuations to give you a good estimate of how much your property could be worth in the current marketplace.