Back in the 1990s I rented a council flat in Hackney from the legit tenant. He’d moved in with his girlfriend in south London but wanted to hang on to the flat. Somewhat ironic as I was working as a housing officer at the time.
Stopping sub-letting is one of the hardest jobs in social housing. Unlike rent arrears or anti-social behaviour the evidence doesn’t come to the landlord. It’s an absolute bugger to prove, pretty much the only way is if either the tenant or their sub-tenant confesses all. And if you proceed to court you won’t get possession, the Judge will just order the real tenant to return to their property.
Today Housing Minister Grant Shapps has announced a crackdown on sub-letting (details here). Essentially £19 million of funding to councils (not housing associations, oddly) and some encouragement for social landlords to use credit checking agencies.
His statement claims there are at least 50,000 dodgy sublets with up to 1 in 20 units in London involved. I’d guess higher than that, but it is just a guess.
Anyway, the ‘crackdown’ won’t amount to much. Credit checking agencies may add a small amount of useful information but it’ll be hard to present it in court. Housing Associations are being left out entirely. The housing measures in the localism bill don’t have anything about subletting.
What’s needed is a carefully crafted change in the law although I’m not sure exactly what. Start with making subletting a mandatory ground for possession.