Busted! The Peterborough rogues renting and subletting unsafe houses

The vacant rooms ready to be sublet in one of the properties.
The vacant rooms ready to be sublet in one of the properties.
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Our Housing Enforcement Team has successfully tackled a group of individuals who were subletting unsafe houses in the city, writes Rob Hill, assistant director for Community Safety at Peterborough City Council.

The group were found to be operating an enterprise that was subletting houses in the Park, Fletton and West Town areas.

They had secured tenancies on the properties in their own name and then, unbeknownst to their landlord, proceeded to advertise individual rooms in the houses for rent. The individuals themselves never actually lived in the properties.

Following a tip-off from a local landlord, enforcement officers visited a house in Princes Street and found it to be a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) with locks on the doors to bedrooms and living rooms and inadequate fire safety. The property was licenced, but not for use as a HMO.

With the help of the landlord and by using social media, enforcement officers were able to establish the individuals concerned were offering the rooms for rent for between £90 and £120 per week.

Officers investigated further and were able to trace the group to two other properties; one in Fletton and one in West Town. When these properties were inspected, they too were found to be sublet HMOs.

Although subletting is not illegal, a tenant who sublets will likely be in breach of their tenancy agreement.

Additionally if a sublet property becomes a HMO, it will be subject to HMO regulations – it is a criminal offence to breach HMO regulations and the person having control of the property can be liable for a fine of up to £5,000 per breach.

Subletting can regularly lead to many issues that not only impact on the property itself but also have an impact on the wider neighbourhood.

Often, when properties are sublet, they are done so purely for financial gain. The person subletting the property often has little or no regard for the wellbeing of the occupiers and little knowledge of the laws that govern the letting of properties; resulting in overcrowding, disrepair and breaches of health and safety and fire regulations.

On this occasion, the council was able to work with the landlords of the affected properties and gather information that has led to the uncovering of a significant subletting operation.

Fortunately the subletting was discovered before the properties became fully occupied meaning that only a handful of people were exposed to risk. We are now supporting the landlords in recovering possession of their properties with a view to re-letting the houses to provide family homes the city so desperately needs (the vacant rooms are pictured).

This case serves as a reminder to landlords to remain vigilant when letting their accommodation. The law is changing on October 1 - from this date, all multi-occupied properties that are occupied by five or more people will require a licence. It will be a criminal offence for a Landlord to be in control of a HMO that is unlicensed.

If you are a landlord and would like more information regarding the change in the law, or your obligations generally, please contact the Housing Enforcement Team on 01733 747474 or email housing.enforcement@peterborough.gov.uk.

Similarly if you suspect a property may be sublet, overcrowded or unlicensed please contact the Housing Enforcement Team.