Find out about the rights of subtenants including your tenancy type, who your landlord is and what happens if you're asked to leave.

Are you a subtenant?

You're a subtenant if your immediate landlord rents the place you live from a higher landlord - the head landlord.

Example: A tenant rents the whole property from a private landlord and then sublets a room to you. The owner of the property is the head landlord. But the tenant is your immediate landlord and this is who your agreement is with.  

You have rights as a subtenant even if the head landlord doesn't know you live there or wants you to leave.

A graphic explaining the relationship between a subtenant, an immediate landlord and a head landlord. The head landlord owns the property. The immediate landlord pays rent to the head landlord. The subtenant pays rent to the immediate landlord. A subtenant has no legal relationship with the head landlord.

Work out what type of subtenancy you have

The type of tenancy you have depends on where your immediate landlord lives. 

You're usually an assured shorthold tenant if your immediate landlord lives in a different property to you.

You're probably a lodger if you rent a room in your landlord's home and share space such as the kitchen or bathroom with them.

You're classed as an occupier with basic protection if you live in the same building as your landlord but don’t share any rooms other than hallways, stairs or storage areas with them. 

If your immediate landlord asks you to leave

Your landlord can't evict you without a court order if you're an:

You can usually be evicted quite easily without a court order if you're a lodger

If the head landlord asks you to leave

You don't have a direct legal relationship with the head landlord.

Your subtenancy can continue for as long as your immediate landlord's tenancy continues - even if they don't have the head landlord's permission to sublet.

If the head landlord wants you to leave, they will usually need to take steps to end your immediate landlord's tenancy first.

If your immediate landlord's tenancy ends

Your tenancy often ends if your immediate landlord's tenancy ends but there are exceptions to this rule.

Your rights to stay in your home will depend on a few factors including:

  • the type of tenancy your immediate landlord had

  • how their tenancy was ended

  • if they had the head landlord's permission to sublet

You could be at risk of eviction. Ask the council for help if you're facing homelessness.

If the head landlord is a private landlord 

You could ask to stay on and pay rent directly to the head landlord.

If they accept rent from you, it's a sign that they've legally recognised you as a tenant. 

You should still ask for a written contract so your rights are clear.

Unlawful sublets of council and housing association homes 

It's a criminal offence for a council or housing association tenant to sublet the whole of their home to someone else. 

You won't have broken the law if you didn't know that the property was rented to you unlawfully, but you probably won't have the right to stay there.

Last updated: 30 January 2020

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