Helpful Tips Property Management

Halloween 2018: Dealing with ghost tenants

Victoria Barker
Written by Victoria Barker

Halloween is here and it’s time to take a look at the rather spooky sounding issue of ghost tenants. We take a look at how common ghost tenants are, why they can be an issue for landlords and what landlords should do if they discover one in their property.

Exactly what is a ghost tenant?

When we talk about ghost tenants, we’re not talking about supernatural entities floating around your property. In fact, ghost tenants are more common than you may think.

A ghost tenant is someone who is living in the property as an ‘unofficial tenant’, for example they could be a rent to rent landlord-where a tenant rents out a property (often under false pretense’s) from a homeowner.  After which, this ‘tenant’ rents it on to  someone else, to make a large profit. This is also what is known as subletting-without the permission or knowledge of the landlord. They could also be a squatter.

Why can it be be a nightmare for landlords?

While most landlords would allow their tenant to have a visitor from time to time, having a visitor overstay their welcome or even discovering one of your own tenants has been subletting without your permission-can come as a bit of a shock. It can also be an issue because:

  • Firstly, landlords can not be sure that the tenants in their property are lawfully allowed to be in the UK. They have not checked their Right to Rent status.
  • Also, there is a risk that additional tenants in a property could mean that a property becomes overcrowded.
  • In a HMO, additional tenants in a property could also breach certain licensing conditions, not to mention that it’s not pleasant for other tenants in a shared house to have to share facilities with more people than they should have to.
  • You can read more about why this is a concern for landlords in a recent Call of the Week on the topic here.
So, what can you do if you discover someone is living in your property without your prior consent or knowledge?

Our advice team manage Rupinder Aujla says that the approach should be different depending on if the ‘ghost tenant’ is a squatter or someone who is subletting off one of your tenants. She says:

“If you have discovered that there is a squatter has broken in and is living in your property, then you should give the police call on the non-emergency number and they will assist you in moving the squatters on. They cannot have keys to the property, or a friend of an ex tenant, to be an illegal squatter.

With subletting, it is advisable that you serve notice on the named tenant, and  if you have a mobile number or email, inform the named tenant that you will be serving notice, with the view to going to court if needed for possession. You must not accept rent from a sub tenant direct, as that creates a tenancy”.

If you want advice on this issue or any other issues you are facing to do with your lettings, and you are an RLA member then you can give our advice team a call and they will be happy to advise. Alternatively, why not try our online live chat service?

Not a member? Join us today! There are no tricks, on treats when you join us this Halloween! That’s because we are offering a fang-tastic 30% off membership! This means you can join us today for just £55.97

About the author

Victoria Barker

Victoria Barker

Victoria is the Communications Officer for the RLA.

She is responsible for producing articles for our Campaigns and News Centre, the weekly E-News newsletter and media review, and creating social media content. She also contributes to our members magazine, Residential Property Investor.

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