Unlawful subletting in social housing: the warning signs  

In a housing context, subletting can occur when during the lifetime of the tenancy the tenant, as opposed to the landlord, allows a third party to have exclusive possession of either part or all of their property. The third party then pays rent to the tenant; they will also generally do their own cooking and cleaning. 

Subletting is different to a tenant having a lodger. A lodger is someone who lives with the tenant, who may pay a contribution to the tenant for doing so, but who does not have exclusive possession of any part of the property.  

Exclusive possession is best explained as a tenant being able to decide who comes into their property and when.    

In a social housing context, a tenant may be able to sublet the whole or part of their property subject to obtaining their landlord’s consent. Nevertheless, it is estimated that the scale of unlawful subletting in the UK is extensive and most acute in high demand areas. 

Social housing providers need to be aware of the potential warning signs of unauthorised subletting to ensure that it is managed effectively. 

Here is our list of unlawful sublet key warning signs:  

  1. No contact from the tenant for a number of months.
  2. Comments from neighbours that the tenant has moved out and a stranger has moved in.
  3. Failure to allow access to the property for the annual gas/electrical inspections.
  4. Failure of the tenant to respond directly to correspondence or calling cards.
  5. No repairs have been reported in the past 12 months.
  6. A rent account where rent is always paid several months in advance or there is significant credit on the account.
  7. Rent is always paid in cash.
  8. The name on the bank standing order or direct debit does not match with that of the tenant.
  9. Telephone and/or utility bills not in the tenant’s name.
  10. Locks fitted on internal doors.
  11. Clothing at the property does not match the size, age or gender of the tenant and their household.
  12. Photographs on display are not of the tenant or their household.
  13. Car regularly parked on the driveway does not belong to the tenant or their household.
  14. Post on view is not addressed to the tenant.
  15. Adverts on renting websites such as gumtree, AirBnB, Rightmove.

If a social housing provider suspects a property has been sublet, there are various legal remedies available from Possession Proceedings to an Unlawful Profit Order. A clear and comprehensive subletting policy and procedure is also a useful housing management tool. 

Contact us, we are here to help

For more information and legal advice on unlawful subletting, please contact Louise Murphy, Head of Social Housing at MSB.