Would You Give Your Keys to a Stranger?

100% of individuals confronted with this question gave a resounding “NO!” unsurprisingly. As they say, Every man’s house is his castle.

However, it can be surprising to experience just how many landlords we meet who have in fact had strangers residing in their properties. “But surely, a landlord would have identification and tenancy agreements for their tenants?” I hear you ask. Indeed, that may be true. Unfortunately, there is a thriving market of illegal subletters and fraudsters still able allude even the more experienced landlords.

It could only take a google search to find a plethora of adverts where existing tenants are actively subletting properties without the landlord’s consent. A tenant could be renting out rooms within a rented property, conducting illegal on-premises businesses or even conducting holiday-let type business on websites like AirBnb, Booking.com, Spareroom.com to name a few.

One has to ask, is this so bad?

The issue mainly arises when the tenant’s decisions unknowingly becomes the landlord’s problem. For instance, additional rooms being subletted would likely breach a tenancy agreement but more importantly, it could breach property licensing legislation and even insurance and mortgage conditions. – all of which can have heavy consequences.

Furthermore, having inaccurate identification and tenancy documentation while attempting to gain possession can cause additional legal costs and significant sums of unpaid rent to accrue. Frighteningly, “seven out of every 10 possessions were refused in county court due to defective notices” stated the London Association of District Judges.

So what can landlords do to keep themselves protected? We recommend the following:

1.      Firstly, only rent to those you feel are trustworthy. You know when something feels right or not, so trust your gut. Or at the least, work with a trustworthy property agent who will be meeting tenants on your behalf.

2.     Conduct full referencing checks on the tenant’s identification documents, previous landlords, credit rating files and proof of address documentation.

3.      Conduct government approved Right to Rent checks and liaise with the Home Office if required.

4.     Consider taking out rent insurance and ensure you are fully aware of the local/national licensing legislation as well as understanding the property’s insurance / mortgage terms.

5.     Conduct regular property inspections to spot any potential red flags – a precautionary measure that we feel is currently undervalued.

With all the increases of legislation recently, taking extra care with tenants and ensuring properties are correctly used couldn’t be more important.

We hope that helps with any landlords looking to secure the best tenants and hopefully avoids giving away the keys to any potential ‘strangers’!!