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What can your landlord do about subletting?

This advice applies to Wales

If you need permission from your landlord before subletting your home or you aren't allowed to sublet but do so anyway, then your landlord is likely to take legal action against you when they find out. The consequences are more serious for some social housing tenants as they may also be committing a criminal offence.

This page gives more information on what your landlord can do if you unlawfully sublet your home.

What is subletting?

Subletting happens when an existing tenant lets all or part of their home to someone else who is known as the subtenant. The subtenant has a tenancy for all or part of the property which is let to them and they have exclusive use of that accommodation.

What action can your landlord take because of subletting?

In some circumstances it's acceptable to sublet your home, but you generally need your landlord's permission. Your landlord may take legal action against you if you sublet your home unlawfully. Unlawful subletting includes if you:

  • need your landlord's permission before subletting all or part of your home but don't get it
  • aren't allowed to sublet all or part of your home but you do so anyway.

In these circumstances, you'll probably have broken a term in your tenancy agreement and on that basis, your landlord can take action to evict you.

Certain social housing tenants may also commit a criminal offence if they unlawfully sublet their home and could be prosecuted under criminal law.

Have you sublet your home?

In some circumstances, you may not have sublet your home but your landlord may think that you have. For example, if a friend or relative has moved in with you temporarily, and you're not charging them rent, then that is not subletting. Also, taking in a lodger under a licence agreement is not subletting because the lodger only has permission to occupy a room, they do not have exclusive possession of it.

If you consider that you haven't actually sublet your home then you should explain that to your landlord.

Possession proceedings to evict you

Subletting which is against your tenancy agreement gives your landlord a legal reason or grounds to start possession proceedings and evict you.

Your landlord must follow a specific legal process to evict you depending on the type of tenancy that you have. This process generally involves serving you with some form of written notice seeking possession of your home. When the notice expires, your landlord has to apply to the county court for a possession order.

If you think your landlord was wrong to serve you notice, you should contact them straightaway and explain why.

Depending on the tenancy you have and the grounds your landlord has used to evict you, the judge may have the power to decide if it's reasonable to evict you.

There is more information on how landlords must bring a tenancy to an end on the GOV.UK website.

  • 'Notice that you must leave: a brief guide for landlords and tenants' - GOV.UK at www.gov.uk

If you lose your tenancy status in one of the first two ways described below then it's generally easier for your landlord to evict you. Your landlord must first serve a notice called a notice to quit to end the tenancy. By serving a notice to quit, your landlord doesn't have to provide legal grounds to evict you or prove to the court that it's reasonable to evict you. When the notice expires, they just have to apply to the county court for a possession order to evict anyone in the property.

To be valid, the notice must be in writing and include the date when it expires. The notice period must be at least four weeks or the length of the rental period if it's longer.

These rules apply if you have a periodic tenancy. A periodic tenancy is one that runs from one rent period to the next, for example, from month to month.

If you have a fixed term tenancy, your landlord can only evict you in this way if your tenancy agreement allows it, for example, it contains a break clause.

If you sublet your entire home

The law says that when a secure, flexible or introductory tenant sublets their entire home, the tenant loses their tenancy status. This means that your tenancy stops being either a secure, flexible or introductory tenancy, and you lose the protection of the law.

The same law applies to an assured, assured shorthold or demoted assured shorthold tenant with a housing association landlord who sublets their entire home from 15 October 2013 in England, or from 5 November 2013 in Wales.

If you lose your tenancy status, your landlord can start the process to evict you by serving a notice to quit.

If you're a statutory protected tenant, you also lose your tenancy status if you sublet all of your home, and your landlord can apply for a possession order without having to serve a notice to quit.

You cannot lose tenancy status in this way if you're an assured or assured shorthold tenant of a private landlord.

If your home is no longer your main home

The law says that a secure, flexible, introductory, assured or assured shorthold tenant has to live in their home as their 'only or principal home'. So if you sublet your home and move somewhere else, then you lose your tenancy status. This means that your tenancy stops being either a secure, flexible, introductory, assured or assured shorthold tenancy, and you lose the protection of the law.

If you lose your tenancy status, your landlord can start the process to evict you by serving a notice to quit.

If you're an assured shorthold tenant

If you're an assured shorthold tenant your landlord can use a special procedure to end your tenancy without needing to give reasons. This procedure is often known as the ‘section 21’ procedure because it comes under section 21 of the Housing Act 1988.

Your landlord can issue a section 21 notice at any time but they can't actually evict you during a fixed term or for the first six months of your tenancy.

  • More about if your landlord wants to end your tenancy - GOV.UK at www.gov.uk

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