Millions of ghost tenants are secretly living in private rented homes, according to letting agents.
Half of letting agents say they have found extra tenants living in homes when they have called round for inspections.
Landlord insurers Direct Line reckon around 3.3 million ghost tenants are flitting about buy to let homes and shared houses in multiple occupation.
Three-quarters confess they have lived in the properties for six months or more.
Many are partners who become live-in lovers who decide sharing is cheaper than running two homes or friends who have nowhere else to stay.
Unfortunately, landlords and letting agents often do not realise that adults living in the home who are not listed on the tenancy agreement can cause all sorts of legal problems.
Direct Line explains ghost tenants will void any landlord insurance policy – and probably the buildings cover as well.
On top of that, the number of tenants could change the legal status of the property from a buy to let to HMO, which requires mandatory licensing if the home has three floors. Some councils also licence small HMOs with three to five tenants.
Direct Line says one two bedroomed house in Reading had several families living there – but only one person was named on the tenancy agreement.
Jane Guaschi, of Direct Line, said: “Lettings agents have seen significant damage from people crammed into a home who are not listed on the lease. In one property we heard of, shelving had been removed from a cupboard under the stairs to create a makeshift bedroom.”
The research also revealed most landlords do not change locks on properties between tenancies, even if the keys have not been returned.
Just over 70% of letting agents confirmed 90% of landlords did not change locks between tenancies, despite the risk to security at the home.
The insurer advises landlords to write a ‘no sub-letting’ clause into tenancy agreements and to regularly check who is living at the property.