The accidental landlord: there’s no room for sublets in my flats

The accidental landlord explores what impact new subletting rules might have on those who rent properties.
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Last month’s Budget might have passed you by in a blur, but buried in there was a statement that will strike fear into the hearts of all landlords — it’s going to be illegal for us to include a blanket ban on subletting in tenancy agreements.
It’s not clear yet whether we’ll still be able to insist that tenants ask our permission to sublet or whether they’ll be given the freedom to let rooms or even entire properties willy-nilly.
But what the Government has said is that it will outlaw clauses that “expressly rule out subletting or otherwise sharing space on a short-term basis”.
Initially, this will apply to fixed-term tenancies, but it is also considering extending this to statutory periodic tenancies, so, in theory, all tenants will be able to sublet, even those who are just renting on a month-by-month basis.
The Government said: “This will ensure that landlords always have to consider tenants’ requests reasonably.”
Well, yes, landlords should consider tenants’ requests reasonably, and personally I don’t have a problem if a tenant renting a one-bedroom flat wants their partner to move in or if tenants want to sublet a flat for a week or two while they’re on holiday, but I hope the Government isn’t suggesting tenants will be given carte blanche to sublet to anyone at any time. If so, we’re all in trouble.

My tenants often try to sneak in extra sharers — usually boyfriends or girlfriends — into my flat, turning it from a property designed for four tenants into a mini youth hostel, and I don’t think I’m unreasonable for promptly booting them out.
Sure, I don’t want the extra wear and tear on my property, that’s certainly true, but I’m more concerned about overcrowding and the effect this will have on the health and safety of my tenants. This property has only one bathroom and one loo, which isn’t enough for more than four people. Also, there’s only one exit door so if, God forbid, there was a fire and the property was crammed full, I would worry they’d never all get out alive.
Another concern is that if tenants sublet, a landlord might accidentally end up with an HMO (House in Multiple Occupation), for which he or she would have to apply for a licence. This would almost certainly be expensive and time-consuming for a landlord.
It’s not clear yet whether landlords would be allowed to raise the rent if the number of tenants increased but, if not, this would certainly discourage them from including energy bills in the price as they’d go up if the occupancy levels rose.
Landlords whose tenants are subletting might also find their insurance premiums increase, and some might not even be able to buy cover as brokers aren’t terribly keen on properties that are sublet.
And then there are the neighbours to consider. I wonder if the Government has thought what it could be like living next to an overcrowded rental property?
Also, what happens if the head tenant leaves and the person they are subletting to stays, who would be responsible for the property?
And if the Government goes ahead with plans to force landlords to check tenants have a right to live in the UK, who would be responsible for checking the immigration status of tenants who rent from another?
This change to the law is part of the Government’s plan for a “sharing” economy, apparently. Well, Chancellor George Osborne and David Cameron can share their properties if they want to, but they shouldn’t expect the rest of us to open up ours to all and sundry.
  • Victoria Whitlock lets three properties in south London. To contact Victoria with your ideas and views, tweet @vicwhitlock

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