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Subletting is essentially the practice of an existing tenant letting all or part of a property to another. Rather than paying rent to a landlord the subtenant pays to the tenant (sometimes known as the mesne landlord) who then pays the landlord.

Is it legal?

Subletting is a complicated area but essentially it all depends on the tenancy agreement the original tenant has. Some agreements allow subletting and some don’t. The conditions of the sublet are also dependent on the original agreement. For example, if you sublet from a tenant whose contract runs out, chances are the sublet is likely to run out as well.

As a tenant can I sublet a room in the property I live in?

Again this all depends on your tenancy agreement. If you’re in any doubt at all speak to your landlord or letting agent. Remember, if you need to fill a room in your flatshare and you’re simply replacing a flatmate who’s leaving then you’re not subletting (as long as the new flatmate pays rent to the landlord/agent and not to you), but make sure you get the tenancy agreement updated to include the person moving in.

How is a subtenant different from a lodger?

The main difference is that a subtenant must have exclusive use of at least one room (generally a bedroom). Lodgers can’t actually prevent their landlord from entering their room (although in practice it’s not generally an issue). Lodgers may also receive some services such as meals or laundry depending on their contract.

I’m moving into an existing flatshare, what do I need to do?

If you’re moving in to replace a tenant who’s leaving make sure you know what the score is in relation to your contract. If the existing flatmates have a joint agreement you should be included in that and in the cases where individuals have their own agreements you should have your own. In reality many agents charge excessive fees to renew contracts so tenants may not be keen to do this until the contract expires and a new one is required.  In this case they may ask you simply to take over the exiting tenant’s rent payments. This doesn’t necessarily cause any problems but it means you won’t have any rights as a tenant which may or may not become difficult if any disputes arise.

For more detailed advice on tenancy agreements and subletting contact Shelter.