Landlords with buy to let properties in the UK have been warned to check who is living in them after fears that millions of ghost tenants could be secretly living there which could put their livelihood at risk.
The warning comes from The Online Letting Agents which is urging landlords and their agents to check properties as soon as possible in a bid to avoid fines under new immigration legislation.
Ghost tenants are those people who move into a property without the landlord's consent or knowledge and are not listed on the tenancy agreement.
Ghost tenants and landlords – a growing issue
The agency points to research which reveals that more than three million ghost tenants are living in 4.5 million buy-to-let properties or HMOs.
This figure is underlined by news that half of letting agencies claim to have found ghost tenants when carrying out an inspection for a client.
The problem for the legal tenant who is named on the agreement is that many are unaware of the potential legal problems for having an unknown person living in their rented home.
Eleanor Carroll, a director of the firm, said: “One in 10 landlords is worried that they are responsible for tenants subletting to an illegal tenant even though they have been reassured that landlords will not be responsible for illegal ghost tenants.”
New immigration rules for landlords
She added that their own research had revealed that many landlords are not confident about their obligations to carry out immigration checks being required under new legislation.
Ms Carroll added: “Around 85% of illegal immigrants are thought to end up living in a privately rented property and landlords who don't use a lettings agency should be aware that individuals who don't have the documentation required may target them.”
Indicators that ghost tenants may be living in a property include checking how much rubbish is being generated, excessive wear and tear, evidence of extra sleeping arrangements and more clothes and shoes than may be necessary.
Real estate firm is optimistic about buy to let
Meanwhile, the international real estate firm, Savills, have announced a revision to their five-year housing forecast for the UK which ends in 2018 to take into account recent levels of price growth in the property sector.
The firm now says that house prices will grow by nearly 26% in its five year forecast with property prices expected to achieve 9.5% growth this year alone.
Savills say that the buoyant property market is leading to higher returns for most buy to let landlords in the UK.
According to the firm, the most lucrative areas are the south-east and the south-west followed equally by Wales and the West and East Midlands. The north-east will generate the lowest house price increase of 18.2% over the five-year period while in Scotland the figure is 18.7%.
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