Can I sublet my rented property?

Last updated: December 2020 | 4 min read

Whether you’re renting a property or the owner, there’ll be times when you wonder whether you could rent a room or the entire property on a short-term basis. The extra income from a house- or flat-mate might be useful, or you might be looking for company, or you might want to cover rent or a mortgage while you are on holiday.

This article covers whether you might be able to let a room or the whole property if you rent.

Subletting is when you, as an existing tenant rent out a part or all of the property to another person. It may be that you rent a spare room, or that you let the whole property for a short period of time. The person to whom you let it is known as the sub-tenant. He or she is liable to pay you the rent as opposed to paying it to your landlord. In other words, the legal relationship is between you and the sub-tenant and not between the your landlord and the subtenant.

Can you sublet at all?

Your tenancy agreement is the first place to look. It is likely to contain a clause that states whether you can sublet.

Most often an assured shorthold tenancy agreement ether forbids subletting or requires the tenant to obtain the landlord’s consent beforehand.

If the tenancy agreement is silent on the matter, then the tenant has no automatic right to do so, and so he or she should seek the landlord’s permission.

If you sublet without the landlord’s consent, you may breach the terms of the tenancy agreement and the landlord may be able to evict you.

Why subletting is an issue for landlords

Most landlords do not allow a tenant to let a room or the property on a short-term basis. The reason is simply one of control. There is no legal relationship between the owner the property and one or more of the occupiers. By renting, the sub-tenant gains rights of occupation that the landlord cannot change. For example, if the sub-tenant acts in an anti-social way towards the neighbours, the landlord may be ultimately responsible, but unable to evict the sub-tenant or act otherwise.

Sometimes, the issue isn’t that the landlord is against subletting, but rather the insurance company for the property is. Like the landlord, the company has a degree less of control over how the property is treated.

Tenancy or licence

You as a tenant are likely to rent the property under an assured shorthold tenancy (“AST”). This gives you fairly strong rights of occupation – the landlord can only evict you with at least two months’ notice after at least six months.

You may rent a room under what is called an excluded tenancy. This gives the sub-tenant similar rights as you have. For example, the tenant would have right of exclusive occupation of the room so that you may not enter it without his permission. There may also be a period during which the sub-tenant cannot be asked to leave.

Alternatively, you may let under a licence agreement, which gives permission to use the room for a maximum period of time without being given rights of exclusive occupation. The latter is usually preferred by landlords and tenants because the sub-tenant can be asked to leave with little notice. If the landlord wants the property back, he does not have to consider the sub-tenants rights of occupation when giving notice. A licence is also usual for letting for holiday periods.

Even if your tenancy agreement allows you sublet, we recommend asking your landlord how he or she might want you to do so.

Responsibility for your sub-tenant will eventually fall to you. If he or she damages the property, it may be you that has to pay. So working with your landlord to make sure that he or she can still give notice to all occupiers as intended and that his or her property is properly protected is important.

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