Mislead by tenants subletting?

by Readers Question

9:19 AM, 30th April 2020
About 5 months ago

Mislead by tenants subletting?

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Mislead by tenants subletting?

My son has a HMO property which was let in January to four overseas students who claimed to be two married couples. Having done the Right to Rent checks, their documentation appeared to be above board. The passports were valid and had the correct student Visas and they had evidence of student registration at universities. Everything appeared to be well and there were no major issues – they were polite and well behaved.

My son even deferred their rent for a month due to the lockdown and them not being able to work or attend university.

However, it has come to my son’s attention that they have sublet part of the property to other overseas students. This only became apparent after there was a domestic abuse issue and the abused person is one of the subtenants and she contacted my son for help. It also transpires that one of the couple are not actually married, but is married to other subtenants. We didn’t ask to see their marriage certificate as it was no concern of ours whether they were married, boyfriend/girlfriend or cohabiting and wanted to respect their privacy.

The abused woman subtenant wants to return to her home country, but can’t as flights are banned. It is unlikely the council will rehouse her – she approached a centre for victims of domestic abuse and this was what they told her (and me). She also claims that the other tenants are engaged in money laundering, but we have no evidence of this.

In the meanwhile she has no choice but to stay in my son’s property. The question is how can we remove the subtenants under the current circumstances? They have no tenancy agreement and My son obviously does not want to be in breach of his HMO licence.

Lockdown or no lockdown the tenants will also be told they are in breach of their lease and asked to vacate the property ASAP and will be served with a section 21 notice and a section 8 notice. The section 8 notice will state the grounds for notice being : (1) in breach of the tenancy agreement by subletting the property; (2) creating a nuisance through the use of violence or threats of violence and intimidation (even though it is against a subtenant) (3) providing false information when taking up the tenancy (4) money laundering. We suspect as they are on student visas they won’t want trouble with the police and Home Office and may vacate sooner than the 3 months the government has stipulated.

If anyone has any advice on how to proceed, it would be appreciated.



Comments

Neil Patterson

9:26 AM, 30th April 2020
About 5 months ago

A very tricky situation in multiple ways under current circumstances and I would definitely seek professional assistance from experts such as Landlord Action >> https://www.property118.com/evicting-tenants/

If you are aware of or have reasonable suspicion of Money Laundering you must report it to the Serious Organised Crimes agency or at least the police. Failure to do so can be a criminal offence of its own.

Smartermind

10:05 AM, 30th April 2020
About 5 months ago

Thanks for the response Neil. We have no evidence of the money laundering, it's only an allegation by the subtenant and she has no evidence either.

Thankfully, the tenants and their subtenants have mutually agreed to vacate the premises in one month's time or as soon as flights resume.

Darren Peters

10:47 AM, 30th April 2020
About 5 months ago

Perhaps ask the tenants & subtenants to put their notice in writing. Have a specific final date rather than the vague 'whenever flights resume'. Eg 1 month or at the latest, in 3 months if flights have not resumed'.

And ask the sub-tenants to pay all the rent direct to you rather than via the tenants. Just in case the original tenants are making a profit off of the subtenants.

Beaver

11:00 AM, 30th April 2020
About 5 months ago

In the days before we were obliged to carry out right-to-rent checks I used to let to a single mum. She was probably my best ever tenant, she looked after the property, paid the rent on time and got on with the neighbours. After she left I found out that somebody was obtaining credit from the property under false pretences whilst she was in it. I also found out after she left that she was claiming housing benefit and other benefits whilst working. None of this was any of my business as she was paying me directly. I only found out after she left.

My tenant was from Ghana, polite, presentable and she spoke good English. Naturally at no time did she ever tell me what she was up to, she was a model tenant.

She finally left at high speed. I got a note from her after she'd left thanking me for being a good landlord, telling me what a nice house it was and that she'd enjoyed living there. She had no reason to send me the note and she gave me no reasons for leaving.

When I visited the property to find it empty (but clean and tidy), still not knowing why she'd left at high speed I happened to bump into one of the neighbours who got on with my tenant. The neighbour told me that the tenant had left because the immigration people had come knocking on the door.

Smartermind

11:52 AM, 30th April 2020
About 5 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Darren Peters at 30/04/2020 - 10:47
Thanks for the response. What you suggest is quite sensible and something we are planning on getting them to do. Under normal circumstances we would have told the subtenants that they have to vacate the premises immediately as they have no legal right to be there. And the tenants would have been served notice and they would probably have left.

The complication now is that their flights are cancelled and there is no definite date when they can leave. They have shown us flight bookings for 29 May, but there is no guarantee that these flights will actually fly. Two of the tenants had tried to fly home last month but their flights were cancelled while they were at the airport. So even if we do get it put in writing, there is no way of enforcing it during the lockdown.

I think in the circumstances we will have to serve a 3 month section 8 notice on them anyway, just in case they can't move out due to the lockdown. We have to wait a couple of months before we can serve a section 21 notice as they only moved in in January.

Beaver

12:05 PM, 30th April 2020
About 5 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Smartermind at 30/04/2020 - 11:52
Under English law if one party offers a contract and the other party accepts it then a contract is created. It doesn't even have to be written down.

So you would need to be very careful indeed about entering into any kind of contract with the sub-let tenants without spelling out the terms of the contract and also checking that it was lawful. Like for example accepting rent directly or entering into an illegal tenancy contract with them.

terry sullivan

12:10 PM, 30th April 2020
About 5 months ago

normal

Smartermind

12:11 PM, 30th April 2020
About 5 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Beaver at 30/04/2020 - 11:00
You had a lucky escape Beaver!

We had four UK, (English, Irish and Scottish) student tenants two years back and we suspect, after they left, that they may have been involved in drug dealing, again according to what neighbours tell us. But these tenants were a real nuisance having loud parties, upsetting the neighbours and even falling out with each other and inevitably they left the house in a state. They had paid their rent on time and did not complain about forfeiting their deposit to pay for the damage. Although we had a valid claim, we suspect they let the deposit go because they had fallen out with each other.

We had an application last year by someone who we suspected, from his strange behaviour and false information - employer had a fake website with fake address, salary slip was fake - that he wanted to use the property for human trafficking and fraud. We declined his application and reported it to the police. But the police did not follow it through.

Arthur Vickers

12:16 PM, 30th April 2020
About 5 months ago

DO NOT take money directly from the sub-tenants. No right to rent checks, no contract and possible problems with HMO licence. Evict as soon as possible.

Smartermind

12:35 PM, 30th April 2020
About 5 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Beaver at 30/04/2020 - 12:05Thanks Arthur and Beaver. We have no intention of taking any money from the subtenants and have instructed the tenants that they shouldn't do so either. My son does not want to breach his HMO licence by entering into any formal contract, written or unwritten, with the subtenants.

Our priority at the moment is getting all the occupants to vacate the premises as soon as humanly and legally possible.

We are also concerned about the welfare of the abused subtenant, even though it is not my sons responsibility. She called the police, but they took no action.

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