Permitted occupiers: FAQs

Landlords Feb 8, 2022

Not everyone who rents a property is necessarily considered a tenant. Some are classed as permitted occupiers, which means they aren't officially tenants and do not have the same rights, protections and obligations. But what is a permitted occupier, how are they different from conventional tenants, and should you consider allowing a permitted occupier in your property? We’ve got the answers below with this guide.  

What is a permitted occupier?

A permitted occupier is someone who isn't a tenant but is authorised by the landlord to live in the property. That means they live at the rented property – probably with the named tenant – but aren't considered a tenant themselves.

They also don't have a tenancy agreement with the landlord in the same sense as the named tenant, meaning they have no legal relationship with the landlord. Consequently, the permitted occupier has no absolute legal right to the property and isn't even responsible for paying rent to the landlord.

However, the permitted occupier is expected to treat the property with care, as they live there or stay for long periods. However, it is the tenant named in the agreement who is ultimately responsible for their behaviour and how they treat the property.

Examples of a permitted occupier

There is more than one type of permitted occupier. Their names will typically be included in the tenancy agreement in the 'permitted occupier' section, as long as the landlord gives their permission.

Permitted occupiers can be:

  • A partner of the tenant who stays regularly
  • An older relative of the tenant who needs to be cared for regularly
  • A child tenant who lives at university but returns home outside of term time

A permitted occupier doesn't have to pay rent, as the tenancy agreement is between the tenant and landlord. Permitted occupiers also aren't in the same legal category as a subtenant or lodger; two other types of tenants who are required to pay rent. The tenant named on the tenancy agreement is fully responsible for ensuring that all contractual obligations are upheld.

What is the difference between a permitted occupier and a tenant?

Tenants have a legal responsibility to pay the rent and treat the property with care according to the details stipulated in the tenancy agreement. They sign an agreement with the landlord, which means they are solely responsible for paying the rent and maintaining the property. A permitted occupier will also be on the tenancy agreement (more on that in a bit), but they don't share the same legal liabilities as the tenant.

A tenant also has basic rights, such as the quiet enjoyment of their rented property in exchange for paying rent. A permitted occupier, however, does not have these rights. For example, a permitted occupier can't demand that the landlord repair broken appliances – only the tenant make those requests.

How does this affect the tenancy agreement?

Most tenancy agreements state that tenants can't sublet the property; otherwise, they could let any spare room and earn money from the subletters. One way around this – so a tenant can still live with someone else without charging them rent – is to use a permitted occupier.

The tenancy agreement acknowledges that a person is legally the permitted occupier. However, other than having written permission to live at the residence on the tenancy agreement, they don't have any legal rights regarding the tenancy.

Landlords also need to agree to let the permitted occupier live in the property. Without the landlord's say-so, anyone residing in the property who isn't on the tenancy agreement is staying unlawfully.

How are permitted occupiers referenced?

A permitted occupier doesn’t need to be referenced, as they are technically an extension of the tenant. That means they are the tenant’s responsibility, and the tenant is the one who pays the rent and ensures the permitted occupier treats the property with good care.

However, for piece of mind, you can request that a permitted occupier undergo certain parts of the tenant referencing process (such as providing character references where appropriate).

Do I need to complete Right to Rent checks on a permitted occupier?

While a permitted occupier doesn't need referencing, they still need to show they have the right to rent if they're over 18. Landlords must check that any permitted occupiers have the right to rent before a tenancy commences in the same way they would with named tenants.

Right to rent involves reviewing proof of ID – such as a passport, identity card, residence card or visa – and making copies of the documents while recording the date of the check.

Renting to anyone without the right to rent is a serious offence. Any landlord knowingly renting to a tenant who doesn't have the right to live in the UK could receive an unlimited fine or be sentenced to five years in prison.

Can a permitted occupier stay if the tenant leaves?

There is no contract between the landlord and the permitted occupier, which can cause a problem if they stay in the property after the tenant leaves. Lawfully, the permitted occupier can remain because the tenant has let them into the property.

However, if there's a tenancy agreement with the tenant, landlords can add a clause saying the permitted occupier becomes the legal tenant if the current one leaves. In such a scenario, the permitted occupier would be legally responsible for the rent.

Are there any risks to the landlord in accepting a permitted occupier?

If a tenancy agreement between the tenant and landlord acknowledges the permitted occupier, then the risks are minimal. Everything is noted in writing, and the landlord accepts a permitted occupier in the property.

Such clauses are in place to protect the landlord from encountering issues with the tenant or permitted occupier. It's vitally important to have everything included in the tenancy agreement. Otherwise, you could experience all sorts of problems, including the permitted occupier living in the property without paying rent after the tenant moves out.

Summary: permitted occupiers

Having a permitted occupier in your property doesn’t need to be an issue if you take the necessary precautions. This includes naming them in the tenancy agreement as a permitted occupier and having a clause stating they will become the legal tenant should the current one move out. Do this, and there is no reason not to accept a reasonable request to from a tenant to bring a permitted occupier into the property.

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