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Beware the Sublet

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Wed 26 Sep 2018

Beware the Sublet

An unfair quirk in the law can leave landlords substantially out of pocket, as highlighted by the recent case of Cheryl Roux, former wife of Michelin star chef Albert Roux. 

A bogus tenant, introduced by a fake London letting agency, rented Mrs Roux’s £5m Knightsbridge property. That tenant then advertised the property to legitimate tenants on Airbnb and Zoopla, raking in £835 a night, with none of this going to Mrs Roux.

On the surface, there would seem to be a case for eviction due to none payment of rent by the “head tenant” (who is known as the “mesne tenant” (pronounced “meen”) when subletting). However, this criminal mesne tenant does not actually live in the property – the sub-tenant does. As the landlord does not have a contract with this “legitimate” sub-tenant, it is virtually impossible to evict them, and they can lawfully occupy the property. Once a property is let and there is a contract between two parties it is a matter for the civil court not the police if a dispute arises. 

This highlights the incredible importance of letting to a well-referenced tenant through a legitimate professional letting agency.  For example, at Callaways, we always ensure that our contracts prohibit sub-letting and our in-depth training ensures that we are always alert to the possibility of scammers trying to rent our clients properties with an ulterior motive. So far, we have never had an issue, but we hear of many who have tried to go it alone, or through an amateur letting agency, with horrendous consequences.   

If you are a landlord, our advice is to regard letting not just as an investment activity, but as a serious business in its own right. We’ll help you maximise your yield with caution and detail, minimising the risks associated with anything other than a thoroughly professional approach.