How can a landlord protect themselves against criminal tenants?

Fortunately, most tenants behave in a lawful and tenant-like manner. Landlords are eternally grateful for those who do act accordingly.

Unfortunately, for every good tenant, there is a bad one.

There are many illegal exploits a tenant could perform in a rented property that could cost landlords dearly in time, stress, and money if they do not take the correct procedures.  

How honest have your tenants been?

Potential illegal activity that could be committed by tenants in rented properties:

Persistent anti-social behaviour

Anti-social behaviour in private rented property is when a tenant causes alarm or distress to other people in their neighbourhood.  Although, landlords are not legally responsible for the bad behaviour of their tenants, ignoring the matter could issue other problems that they would want to avoid.

The council may take over the management of a property to put a halt to poor behaviour. Also, it can cause the need for a ‘selective licensing scheme’ if people in the area are behaving anti-socially. Selective Licensing is a scheme that requires most private rented properties to be licensed. It means that houses need to be licensed where they have one or two tenants or a family living there. (Source: Nottingham City Council)

Signs of anti-social behaviour:

  • Loud music/shouting
  • Fly-tipping
  • Hosting parties
  • Car engine noise
  • Vehicles inappropriately parked
  • Abusive and threatening behaviour/Racist and homophobic abuse
  • Children astray on the street

Illegal sub-letting

Subletting is when an existing tenant lets all or part of their house to another person, known as a subtenant. However, they need to be granted permission for this arrangement, as it becomes illegal if it is not granted.

Signs of illegal subletting:

  • Extra rubbish in the bins every week for the property
  • An overcrowded driveway
  • Noise complaints from neighbours

Drug farms 

Recently, a news story on a landlord who faces a £150,000 bill for repairs after a tenant turned their property into a drug farm, has been reported by mainstream news outlets.

Interference with the electricity meter is a clear sign of a drug farm within your property. If this becomes apparent, your electricity provider will issue a letter requesting a meter reading or to visit the property. They will provide the landlord with guidance to follow.

There are also other signs of drug farming in your property to look out for:

  • The smell of cannabis
  • The tenant is often absent from the property
  • The tenant has concealed parts of the property, for example, the loft
  • Large amounts of cash lying about


You would think that you would know if there was a brothel being operated from your property. You may however not be alerted if you have a property in a nice residential area and you are offered six months’ rent in advance for a six-month tenancy. At the end of the six months, the property is handed back to you in excellent condition. What you may not be aware of is that it was used as a pop-up brothel.

Modern-Day Slavery

This is a huge issue that we all need to play a part in stopping. If you rent your property and do not do appropriate right to rent checks, tenancy checks, ensure that there is no overcrowding and do regular inspections taking note of additional mattresses, evidence of additional people being there etc, your property may be used for this horrific crime.

Puppy Farms

This is a growing crime and alarmingly often takes place in rental properties. If you have a cellar, do you check it during your inspections? Do you check out the outside space during your property inspections? Is there evidence of puppies/kittens? Is there a bad smell?

Procedures to take:

Don’t fall into the trap where Landlords, on many occasions, blindly praise their tenants as they pay their rent on time and never bother them with repair and maintenance issues.

Those landlords, who fall into this ‘trap’, are always late to discover the problems occurring in their properties, meaning for costly consequences.

As a landlord, it is vital to have a plan of action before and during the occupancy of your property, to protect yourself.

Perform background checks on your potential tenants.

  • Obtain references from the tenant’s previous landlords.  
  • Ask for and consider the tenant’s employment history/status.
  • Meet the tenant face to face – this may be difficult due to COVID
  • Check their Right to Rent status
  • If the applicant has lied or misled you at this stage, do you really want them as a tenant?

Insure the property to protect yourself against costs of potential damage.

Insist upon the tenant having a solid backup plan should they not be able to pay their rent or damage the property. This could be in the form of a viable guarantor to ensure costs for a potential breach of contract are covered. However, it is important that you do not discriminate against those who do not have one as it is not a legal requirement to attain one. An alternative might be to suggest a rent guarantee scheme – which is at the tenant’s expense.

It would also be beneficial to perform regular inspections to monitor the property. You are able to make a provision in the tenancy for periodic checks. A written notice of 24 hours is the minimum requirement to inform your tenants of upcoming inspections. Afterall, you do not want to be disturbing the tenants’ right to peaceful enjoyment of their home.

There is a saying that I particularly like and have personally tried to stick to – do not mix business with pleasure. Many landlords come to me with issues with their tenancies, and it transpires that the tenant is a friend of the landlord. They have skipped vital steps when managing their tenancy and the initial tenancy checks.

If you choose to rent your property to a friend, I would urge that you either employ an agent to manage the property or at the very least keep the arrangement separate from your friendship.

How to evict a tenant

A tenant needs to be evicted if they are committing illegal activity in the landlord’s property.

A landlord can evict a tenant by issuing a section 21 or section 8 notice.

It is hugely important to use the correct notice and to ensure that you are compliant.

Make certain that all of your paperwork and the property meets the legal requirements, or your notice may not be valid.

However, section 21 is set to be abolished and you can read the blog on that matter here: 


Regular arranged procedures of monitorisation are a pivotal measure to undertake in order to limit the risk of criminal activity. Arranging inspections will comfort and maintain rapport with the tenant subtly, keeping their tenancy compliant and in order. Taking the correct procedures will protect the landlord and the property, possibly saving thousands in the process.

Do not judge a book by its cover, be investigative.

Can't find what you are looking for?

Our helpful team are on hand to answer any queries and concerns you may have.

Get in Touch

This website uses cookies. We use cookies to provide social media features and to analyse our traffic.
You consent to our cookies if you continue to use our website. Read our cookie policy. I understand