This question is based on this consumer affairs problem on the Guardian site, but the details are not explicit so I shall present a hypothetical:

  • Alice owns a house
  • Bob lets the house from Alice, with a clause in the contract that specifically excludes the subletting of the property
  • Charlie sublets the house from Bob via AirBnB in breach of this contract
  • During Charlie's stay at the house, Alice approaches Charlie, informs them of the lack of permission to sublet and:
    • Demands additional payment to remain in the house
    • Demands Charlie leave the property before the end of their planned stay
    • Threatens to call the police if one or other of the above demands are not met

What is Charlie's legal situation here? Is there any requirement for them to pay Alice anything? Do they have the right to remain in the property? Have they done anything the police may consider a crime? Could they have a case against Alice for threatening behaviour?

I would have assumed that Bob has breached a contractual term with Alice, generating a potential civil case against him. I cannot see that this would affect Charlie at all, but I do not know.

  • I don't know about united kingdom, but in other jurisdictions, such a clause would be void by itself. In Switzerland, the owner must not generally forbid subletting. So if Alice threw Bob out for alleged breach of contract, she would be liable for Bobs extra expenses.
    – PMF
    Jul 14, 2022 at 13:45
  • @PMF In England and Wales, if not elsewhere in the UK, it is common for tenancy agreements to forbid tenants from subletting the whole of the property without consent from the landlord. Also, it is common for mortgages, insurances and leaseholds to forbid sublets.
    – Lag
    Jul 14, 2022 at 13:53
  • In the US it is common for a lease to require the landlord's approval for a sublease or sublet, and not uncommon for a rental agreement to prohibit any sublets. Such agreements are lawful and enforceable in many US jurisdictions Jul 14, 2022 at 14:37

2 Answers 2


Charlie is not a party to the contract between Alice and Bob

Alice and Charlie have no contractural relationship and Alice cannot require him to do anything nor is he liable to Alice in any way.

Alice’s issue is with Bob who has clearly breached his contract. Alice can sue Bob for damages and may be able to end the lease.

There is no trespass because Charlie is there with the permission of the leaseholder. From Charlie’s position there is no reason to believe that Bob does not have the authority to give this permission so Charlie is not in breach of the law. The police will see this as a civil matter and won’t intervene.

  • 4
    "There is no trespass because Charlie is there with the permission of the leaseholder." - Bob was not capable of giving Charlie permission.
    – Lag
    Jul 14, 2022 at 12:52
  • 1
    @Lag of course Bob can. It’s just a breach of contract for him to do so. That doesn’t make the permission invalid, it just allows Alice to sue Bob.
    – Dale M
    Jul 14, 2022 at 20:37
  • It seems in March 2019 you had the same opinion as I do now. "The guest does not have permission because the host lacked the authority to give it to them." law.stackexchange.com/a/38381/17893
    – Lag
    Jul 18, 2022 at 9:54

Charlie is trespassing, a civil wrong. Charlie commits a criminal offence (s144 Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012) if he refuses to leave Alice's property after she has told him to leave. Alice is free to call the police.

I don't think Alice is free to allow Charlie to stay because of her tenancy agreement with Bob. But either way her insurance, leasehold and/or mortgage agreement may forbid her from allowing Charlie to stay, whatever the tenancy agreement says.

I don't think Alice is committing a criminal offence if she says to Charlie something along the lines of, "You can stay for £X a night."

With regard to Bob, you point out that Bob is in breach of his tenancy agreement with Alice. Alice might evict him and seek possession.

  • 1
    @bdb484 In the question, second bullet point: "Bob lets the house from Alice, with a clause in the contract that specifically excludes the subletting of the property"
    – Lag
    Jul 14, 2022 at 13:17
  • 1
    @Lag Bob may not sublet (parts of) the house, but he may clearly allow someone else to be in the house. A passage in Alice and Bobs contract that said something like "It is not allowed to have guests in the house" would most certainly be void.
    – PMF
    Jul 14, 2022 at 13:37
  • 2
    @PMF The scenario explicitly described by the question is that (bullet three) Bob tries to sublet to Charlie, which (bullet two) is in breach of Bob's tenancy agreement that forbids him from subletting. Charlie isn't an ordinary guest such as a relative, friend or intimate relationship, he is a paying customer.
    – Lag
    Jul 14, 2022 at 13:49
  • 1
    @Lag Sure, but since he's there with the explicit permission of Bob, he's not illegally in that house. If Bob called a doctor to his house, the doctor is also not his friend, and economically speaking it's a business relationship.
    – PMF
    Jul 14, 2022 at 13:58
  • 1
    Bdb484 quite possible that Bob is incapable of giving permission to enter with the intent to breach his contract. If the lease contract says “no drug dealing” he might be incapable of giving a customer permission to enter.
    – gnasher729
    Jul 15, 2022 at 4:29

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