New research reports that the phenomena of ‘ghost tenants’ is on the rise. Whilst you might be excused for thinking this blog post is part of a ‘Halloween special’ you’d be wrong. In this instance the term ‘ghost tenant’ refers to unlisted tenants who reside in buy-to-let properties and HMOs, and according to the research there are over 3 million unlisted tenants residing in the 4.5 million properties of this sort. Many legal tenants either fail to realise or choose not to list other adults living under their roof and this can end up causing major repercussions when discovered.

The definition of a ‘ghost tenant’ is someone who lives in the property without the landlord’s knowledge or consent, and who is not listed anywhere on the tenancy agreement. Of course this is not a new issue and one which all landlords have experienced for a long time, so why is this now suddenly significant?

New checks are being brought in to combat unlawful immigration – and these are a landlord’s responsibility. Why is this happening? Well it seems that official figures suggest that up to 85% of illegal immigrants are living as ‘ghost tenants’ – a very serious finding.

Why has it got this bad and what can the Eastbourne community do to help?

It seems that most Eastbourne landlords are not confident in making immigration checks as required by the new legislation.

Are these checks the responsibility of landlords?

It seems that despite being reassured that landlords will not be held responsible for ‘ghost tenants’ residing in their property at least 1 in 10 landlords is concerned they might still be held liable for any illegal sublets involving illegal immigrants.

What can you do to ensure peace of mind?

There are a variety of methods that landlords can check within the law to ensure that no illegal sublets to ‘ghost tenants’ take place on their property. Landlords have been advised to keep an eye out for excess rubbish coming from the property – more than would usually be generated by the number of tenants living there. Landlords are also advised to look out for excessive wear and tear to the property as this too may suggest that more people are living there than they should. During inspections landlords should keep an eye out for evidence of additional beds or bedding or sofas being used for sleeping arrangements. The most obvious way is to look out for excessive possessions, clothes and property – it’ quite clear to see when there are additional individuals living under the roof of your property as they leave a visible footprint on the state of the house.

What should you do if you are concerned?

As a landlord your responsibility is to remain vigilant and challenge any circumstance you deem as potentially suspicious. If you see visible evidence that your property is being illegally sublet then as well as challenging the sublet you must carry out immigration and visa checks. A number of new companies have been setup to carry these out so the process should be pretty straightforward.

This is not the only concern for Landlords! See our article ”Landlords Must Not Turn a Blind Eye to Criminal Tenants” for more details.