This follows landlords’ deep concerns about an announcement in the 2015 Budget (Budget Red Book Page 51) which states that the Government committed to:
“make it easier for individuals to sub-let a room through its intention to legislate to prevent the use of clauses in private fixed-term residential tenancy agreements that expressly rule out sub-letting or otherwise sharing space on a short-term basis, and consider extending this prohibition to statutory periodic tenancies.”
It is thought the move is in response to increasing demand for short-term lettings through websites such as Airbnb, but the proposals lack detail and raise more questions than answers.
It has always been the case that in residential tenancies sub-letting without the landlord’s consent is not allowed, and it is invariably prevented by terms in landlords’ insurance and mortgage agreements.
This issue has raised serious concerns for private landlords as it would prima facie remove their ability to control who occupies their premises.
The Residential Landlords Association (RLA) Chairman Alan Ward has written to the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) Director General Peter Schofield seeking clarification on the issue.
The RLA letter is reproduced here:
24 March 2015
Director General (Neighbourhoods)
Department for Communities and Local Government
2 Marsham Street
Dear Mr Schofield
You will be aware that the Budget Red Book contained a number of proposals to make it easier for tenants in private rented accommodation to sub-let the homes they rent.
As the voice for private sector landlords, we were concerned that this policy seems to have been formed without any consultation with key partner organisations.
In light of this, and given the difficulties that the policy is likely to pose for landlords, I should be grateful for responses on the following points:
1. Can you confirm that the provisions on sub-letting will only be taken forward if the next Government decides to do so and that these proposals are not set in stone?
2. Why was there no consultation with the industry prior to these proposals being announced?
3. Would the proposal apply to Wales?
4. Will tenancy agreements have to allow sub-letting or would it be a case of sub-letting being allowed only with the landlord’s permission? I refer to para 2.235 and would like to know what would be deemed reasonable?
5. Would tenants who sublet be considered to be the landlord for the purposes of tenancy deposits, serving relevant paperwork (gas safety certificate, EPC, S21) and immigration checks?
6. Would subletting tenants be responsible for Housing Health and Safety Rating System, and maintenance of the property in the portion of the property they sublet?
7. How would such legislation interact with local licensing – would a tenant who sublets also require a licence? Who will be responsible for breaches? Would a reasonable cause to refuse a sub-let come under selective licensing?
8. Who will be held responsible for general landlord breaches by the sub-letting tenant?
9. What happens when the tenant who sublets absconds, leaving behind the sub-tenant? Could the landlord regain possession of the house, even if they don’t have a contract with the sub-tenant themselves? What rights to occupy would the sub-tenant have?
10. Will this also apply where a tenant moves in a partner, rather than renting out a room? Can leases still forbid this or require landlord permission/change of tenancy? What happens if the original tenant leaves and the partner stays?
11. Would a landlord renting out a property that is subsequently sub-let then find that the property is classified as a House of Multiple Occupation?
12. What happens about so-called rent-to-renters? How would a landlord regain possession of their property if they don’t have a tenancy agreement or even know the names of the sub-tenant?
13. What is meant by “short term” let?
14. Who takes responsibility for any anti-social behaviour carried out by a sub-tenant?
15. Would tenants who sub-let be subject to provisions within the Deregulation Bill on retaliatory evictions?
16. Will the Government be consulting on the proposals? If so, what is the likely time-frame?
17. What is the difference between the sub-tenant and a lodger?
In light of our concerns, I should be grateful for an opportunity to meet with you or your colleagues to discuss these proposals as a matter of urgency and would be grateful if your office could email firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange a discussion.
I look forward to hearing from you.
— LandlordZONE (@LandlordZONE) April 9, 2015