Legally subletting

Subletting is when a tenant lets out part of the property they are renting to another tenant. There are important rules and responsibilities for landlords and tenants to be aware of when subletting.

Get permission

If you are a tenant wanting to sublet part of your property, the most important thing to do is to ask for permission from your landlord. You need written consent that they will allow you to sublet. There may be a clause in your tenancy agreement that covers subletting; most landlords don’t allow it, but some will, if their permission is sought.


If you are a tenant who sublets to another tenant, then you become known as a ‘mesne’ (pronounced “meen”) tenant. The subtenant will consider you to be their landlord. A subtenant needs to be paying rent to the mesne tenant for it to be considered a sublet.

As a subtenant, you will have exclusive rights to the room you are renting, meaning no-one can enter it without your permission. You also have the same responsibilities as a tenant to your landlord (the mesne tenant). This includes paying your rent and bills on time, keeping the property in a good condition and not breaking any terms of your tenancy agreement.

Mesne tenant responsibilities

Since mesne tenants are considered the landlord of the subtenant, their responsibilities are also like a landlord’s. You will need to perform right to rent checks on your subtenant, as well as ensure you receive rent from them and organise any repairs they might reasonably request in the property. You will also have to arrange the eviction process if your tenant breaks conditions of their agreement or any of the grounds described by the Section 8 notice.

Remember, any damage or arrears caused by the subtenant is ultimately the mesne tenant’s responsibility.

Choose the right tenant

As a mesne tenant, you may not have as much experience in managing tenants, chasing payments and evicting; ideally, you want to avoid situations like this. Try to choose tenants you know personally, like friends or family, or if you are choosing a stranger, be sure to get to know them to ensure they will be a good fit for your property. You will be living with them, so be as picky as you need to avoid any potential problems in future.

End of subtenancy

A subtenancy will usually end when the mesne tenant’s contract ends as well. However, if you are a subtenant who wishes to stay in the property, then you can always get in touch with the head landlord (who owns the property) and ask if they will create a new tenancy for you to stay longer.

Illegal subletting

If you do not get the permission of the property owner/landlord to sublet the property, but do so anyway, then you are illegally subletting. This means the landlord will be able to evict you and the subtenant from the property.

If you are a tenant in social housing and illegally sublet to a subtenant, then the crime is much more serious and can lead to a heavy fine as well as eviction.

Always get permission to sublet your property to avoid any issues.

The head landlord is the property owner and the person that the mesne tenant is renting from in the first place.

If a tenant asks permission to sublet, landlords have the right to refuse, but they must give a valid reason.

Subletting can become a problem for landlords, as they have less control over who is renting their property. They could lose income if the subtenant doesn’t pay rent and an unreliable mesne tenant could mean both the landlord and subtenants are misled and lose money. The property may also become an illegal Home of Multiple Occupation (HMO) if the tenant sublets to too many people; as most properties that have three or more tenants need a HMO license from the local authority.

Respect your landlord’s decision if they refuse permission to sublet; it is still their property and their reasons for not allowing a sublet may be perfectly valid.

Use an ARLA Propertymark Agent

A good letting agent can answer any questions you may have regarding subletting and may offer advice to both tenants and landlords about how to manage a subletting situation.

Use our Find an Expert tool to find a letting agent you can trust, it’s free, with no sign-up required.


letting agent logos

Guide to Agent logos

This guide goes through the logos your letting agent will display; which ones your agent should definitely be showing and what they all mean for you. Read more...

landlord jargon

Landlord Jargon Explained

As a landlord, there's a whole host of terminology, acronyms and organisations you need to be aware of. Read more...

 Find an Expert

Find an Expert

Search for a Propertymark Protected expert to ensure your rented home is in safe and reliable hands. More info...