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POSTED 30 October 2018 Lettings

What is Subletting?

If you rent accommodation from a landlord and then let out part or all of the property to another person, this is known as subletting.

Subletting can be perfectly legal, but if you sublet without the expressed permission of your landlord it can become problematic.


When you sublet a property, the terminology used to describe the parties involved differs from a standard landlord-to-tenant arrangement.

In a subletting agreement, the landlord becomes what is known as the head landlord, you become the mesne (which means intermediary and is pronounced mean) and the person to whom you sublet is called the subtenant.

Is subletting legal?

Subletting can be perfectly legal – however, expressed permission from the landlord is usually required.

Many tenancy agreements include terms on subletting, so you should always check this first for guidance before going ahead. The contract may explicitly state that subletting is permitted. Equally it may state that it is prohibited. In either case, you have a clear directive on the matter.

More likely, however, the contract will indicate that you need to contact your landlord directly in order to seek their permission. This should be done in writing.

If you go to your landlord with a request to sublet their property, they are under no obligation to agree – unless otherwise stated in the tenancy contract. However, as long as your request is reasonable and the landlord doesn’t have any particular aversion to the idea, there is no reason that they won’t approve.

When is subletting illegal?

In the event that a landlord turns down a request to sublet and a tenant goes ahead regardless, this is illegal. Similarly, if a tenant fails to ask permission altogether and proceeds to sublet the property, this is illegal. It is also illegal to sublet a property if the tenancy agreement clearly states that it is prohibited.

Illegal subletting can be grounds for immediate eviction from a property, for both the mesne and the subtenant.

It is important to note that subletting social housing can be considered a criminal offence and transgressors may face financial penalties as a result.

What do I need to think about it I sublet?

Assuming a landlord gives you the go ahead to sublet part or all of a property, there are a number of things that you need to think about.

As the mesne, you become responsible for the safety and well-being of the subtenant, so you need to ensure that you are keeping repair of:

  • The structure and exterior of the property.
  • Basins, sinks, baths, toilets and their pipework.
  • Water and gas pipes, electrical wiring, water tanks, boilers, radiators, gas fires, fitted electric fires or fitted heaters.

In reality, your landlord should already be doing this for you. However, in the event that something goes wrong at a sublet property, it is your responsibility to alert the landlord to the problem, not that of the subtenant.