Subletting is when an existing tenant rents out their home, or part of their home, to a third-party tenant who isn’t on the tenancy agreement. Unlawful subletting occurs when the landlord has not given permission for the tenant to let the rented property but the tenant does so anyway. As a term in the tenancy agreement has been broken, the landlord can choose to evict the tenant or take legal action.
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There is a reason why subletting is not permitted under a standard tenancy agreement. Unauthorised subletting poses huge risks to landlords, as they lose control over who is living their property, rendering any previous tenant background checks pretty much pointless. The landlord won’t be the one choosing the subtenant, so there is no guarantee that the subtenant can be trusted to look after the property.
Despite this, according to a research report by Direct Line, as many as 1 in 6 renters (17% of those surveyed) have sublet their home to someone who isn’t on the tenancy agreement. A quarter of those didn’t think to check the terms of their tenancy agreement to see if it was even permitted. This could either suggest an apathy toward the tenancy agreement, or simply an unawareness that subletting may break the conditions of their tenancy.
- 34% of renters who have sublet their home failed to inform their landlord.
- 23% of those subletters who didn’t inform their landlord got caught.
- 11% of those caught were evicted and 6% lost their deposit.
- 15% of renters have admitted to considering subletting their rented property via websites such as Airbnb.
When we think of subletting, we tend to think of more formal arrangements between our tenant and their secret subtenant. But with home sharing websites like Airbnb gaining popularity, many are advertising their property for short-term subtenancies, against the conditions of their tenancy agreement.
According to Airbnb’s own reports, dated December 3 2015:
- 2.2 million guests used Airbnb to visit the UK in the past year.
- 3.1 million UK residents used Airbnb for their travels.
- 52,500 hosts shared their homes in the past year.
- The typical Airbnb UK host last year earned £2000 by sharing their home for 46 nights a year.
- 85% of Airbnb guests choose Airbnb to “live like a local” in communities beyond the tourist hotspots. This spread economic benefits beyond city centres and tourist hotspots.
- More than a third of UK hosts earn below the median household income, and almost half rely on the income they make by sharing their homes to make ends meet.
What we don’t know, however, is how many of these Airbnb hosts are unlawfully profiting from subletting their rented property to guests.
In a controversial turn of events, much to the outrage of many landlords, Chancellor George Osborne announced in the 2015 budget that the government is planning to bring in legislation allowing tenants to sub-let their home for short periods of time via websites like Airbnb.
In a statement, Housing Minister Brandon Lewis, said:
“Tenants should be able to ask for permission to sublet their home without expecting a blanket refusal in every case – but landlords should also have the right to know who is living in their property. Our proposals would mean a tenant could ask for this permission under the model tenancy agreement, with the landlords having the right of refusal, offering reasons for that decision and within a reasonable time frame.”
One of the biggest issues for landlords, aside from the damage risks of not knowing who is living in the property (even just for a weekend), is that the sublet may breach their own buy-to-let mortgage conditions as well as their landlord insurance. Landlord insurance will cover the landlord and anyone with legal right to occupy the building, which the Airbnb guest is not. Therefore, in the event of a fire or other sort of disaster caused by the guest, the landlord is not covered.