Buy to let landlords in the UK could have millions of ghost tenants secretly living in their rented properties which is putting them and lettings agents at risk, it is claimed.
The Online Letting Agents is urging landlords and agents to check their properties to avoid the possibility of hefty fines resulting from the new immigration legislation.
According to recent research at least three million ghost tenants live in the UK’s 4.5 million buy to lets and shared houses in multiple occupation (HMO) and often tenants do not realise that other adults living in the home who are not listed on the tenancy agreement can cause legal problems.
More than half of letting agents have found ghost tenants living in rented homes when they have visited for inspections. Ghost tenants are not listed on tenancy agreements and move in without the landlord’s knowledge or consent.
‘We know from our recent studies that most landlords are not confident about making the immigration checks that will be required by the new legislation. Despite reassurances that landlords will not be responsible for illegal ghost tenants that are living in their property, one in 10 landlords is still worried that they will be responsible for any tenants subletting to illegal tenants,’ said Eleanor Carroll, director of The Online Letting Agents.
‘It is thought that up to 85% of illegal immigrants end up living in privately rented accommodation. Landlords who do not use a letting agent to let their properties need to be aware that they may be targeted by individuals who do not have the required documentation,’ she explained.
‘It is important that landlords and agents check properties for ghost tenants and we advise looking out for signs such as more rubbish than expected for the number of tenants, excessive wear and tear to the property, and evidence of additional sleeping arrangements, clothing and shoes in the property,’ she added.