There are lots of advantages to being a landlord. You get a steady income, your property can appreciate in value, and there’s a lot of flexibility; you can do it full-time or alongside another job.
However, it’s important to keep up to date with landlord property law and legislation. Otherwise, you might have to spend time and money putting things right.
One thing you need to be aware of is occupiers’ rights. In this article, we’ll look at the legal definition of an occupier, how they differ from a tenant, and what rights they have.
What is an occupier?
An occupier is someone who stays in a rental property on a long-term basis but is not the tenant.
For example, let’s say that your tenant has a partner that does not live with them all the time but stays over a couple of nights a week. In this case, the partner would be an occupier of the property. Alternatively, the parents could be the joint tenants of a property, and their children the occupiers.
On the other hand, let’s say a tenant has a friend who stays over once or twice a year. As this isn’t classified as being on a long-term basis, they would be considered a guest rather than an occupier.
Does an occupier have legal rights to my property?
No, occupiers have no legal rights to your property and are not required to pay rent.
The tenant is ultimately responsible for the occupier and their behaviour in the property. For example, if an occupier wilfully damages your rental property, the tenant has to take responsibility for the damage done.
Can I ask a tenant if there will be any occupiers of the property when they move in?
Yes, you can ask your tenant to inform you of any planned occupiers by including a ‘permitted occupier clause’ in your tenancy agreement.
By being included in the contract, they become what is known as a ‘permitted occupier’. This doesn’t grant the occupier any legal rights but shows that you have given permission for them to live in the property.
It’s definitely worthwhile to be aware of how many occupiers of the property there are. Depending on the specific circumstances, additional occupants could turn your property into a house of multiple occupation (HMO), which would mean it is subject to other regulations.
There are benefits for occupiers giving you their details too. For example, it gives them proof of a permanent address which they can use as evidence when registering to vote or applying for a bank account.
Can I ask an occupier for a reference?
No, you cannot ask occupiers for a reference because they will not have a financial responsibility towards the property.
Your tenants are responsible for paying the rent so you should ask for a reference from them, and you should think of any occupiers as an extension of your tenants.
Do I have to do a ‘right to rent’ check on an occupier?
Yes. Right to rent checks apply to everyone who lives in the property
My tenant has left and still owes rent. Can I get the occupier to pay?
While the tenant is legally responsible for the occupier, it doesn’t work the other way around. You can’t ask an occupier to accept liability for rent or any additional tenancy costs.
If you do demand and accept money from an occupier, this could be seen by the law as granting them tenancy.
Learn more about where you stand if a tenant leaves without paying rent.
Can an occupier stay in the property if the tenant leaves?
Let’s say your tenant and their partner break up, and the tenant moves out of the property. As the occupier has no legal rights, they will also need to leave.
The only exception is if the occupier signs a tenancy agreement with you. By doing this, they become the new tenant of your property, with all the rights and benefits therein.
What happens if an occupier refuses to leave?
As the occupier is the tenant’s responsibility, the tenant would still be liable for rent if the occupier didn’t leave the property.
Learn more about the avenues you can use to remove a tenant.
Brown Turner Ross: helping landlords stay legal and compliant
We specialise in providing legal advice to residential landlords across the UK.
If you’re unsure where you stand regarding tenants or occupiers, our no-nonsense team of solicitors will handle the paperwork on your behalf. We’ll save you valuable time and help you get the outcome you deserve.