Eviction and Tenancy Rights teams at Legal for Landlords have received some larger than usual enquiries of late pertaining to rented houses used for brothels and massage parlours. Thankfully not from landlords looking to set-up their own in-house businesses but rather suspicions that their properties are indeed being used by sex workers.
Without proof, there’s little a landlord can do but to inform the police of their suspicions and hope for the best. Unfortunately, when a house in a residential area is used for the ‘adult industry’ landlords can be victim to financial loss due to rental voids surrounding the reputation a house has established.
Landlords may find that if they have been aware of the previous tenants use of the property and they fail to inform new tenants that a house has been used as a brothel, tenants may have grounds to render the term of the tenancy unenforceable, especially if some of the old clientele come calling. It’s a very grey area, but on a couple of occasions landlords have reduced rents to avoid rental voids in certain circumstances and indeed informed new tenants as to the previous use of the property. These instances have also been applied to properties where drugs have been grown or dealt from.
Last year, one woman informed a letting agent that she wanted a property to live in with her husband and child, however she was later convicted after a raid by police that found the property was after all a massage parlour, employing a further two prostitutes.
Forged documents later examined, revealed that the woman was in fact an illegal immigrant. As far as tenant checking goes, this particular vetting procedure was obviously a poor service applied on the tenant in the first place.
Again, another woman in the south of England told her letting agent that she worked from her home as a seamstress, but after enquiries by the police it became obvious that she was in fact offering her clients more than just trouser tucks and cross stitch.
But it’s not just illegal businesses that can cause major headache for hapless landlords. Last year, housing minister, Grant Shapps promoted cottage industries that are run by tenants from home in social housing, however another grey area surrounds the private sector on this issue. There’s little information on housing legislation if a house is used as a commercial premises and cancels out rights under the Housing Act. If this was the case a landlord may have to follow procedures of commercial premises legislation instead.
The legal teams at ‘Legal 4 Landlords’ do however feel that if indeed the tenant named on the tenancy is residing in the property and is paying council tax at the domestic rate, the Housing Act regulations will apply. In an era where home internet business is growing, it’s quite a quandary. Landlords can add a clause in a tenancy stating that the property cannot be used as a business, but again it’s something the housing minister needs to address before it really does becomes a right old carry on!