9 signs your tenant may be subletting

Property damage, out-of-control parties, drug dens, brothels and crime are just a few of the dangers of unauthorised short-term subletting. Here’s how to tell your tenant is subletting.

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For tenants the extra cash may be handy, but as the property owner you’re left footing the bill for any problems, and your insurance often won’t cover it.

So how can you tell if your tenant is subletting? Here are some signs to watch for:

1. Your tenant is often out of town on work

Renting is expensive, especially in Australia’s main cities. If a tenant isn’t around to use what they’re paying all that money for, they may see Airbnb as an easy way to get their money’s worth from your property.

2. Your tenant is often on vacation

During peak periods, a two-bedroom unit on Airbnb can command $500 a night in some areas of Sydney. A week of that easily pays for a Bali holiday. If your tenant is on vacation a lot, they may be using your property to make holidays pay for themselves.


3. Your tenant is nervous during property inspections

If there are bedrooms they don’t want you to enter or they want a lot of warning period before inspections, these are both danger signs. Bedrooms are often spruced up for guests, and with a schedule full of incoming guests they’ll find it hard to accommodate an inspection.

4. When you visit, it looks like a bed and breakfast

Look for the things you see when you stay at a good BnB or hotel. If you see maps and guides for the local area, or tea and coffee makers in the bedrooms, this is a dead giveaway.

5. A single person is looking to rent a large property

Why do they need so much space? They’ll be doing something with all those extra rooms, and subletting is an easy way to make extra cash off them, especially in areas with lots of young tourists (e.g. Bondi Beach, Manly).

6. Someone with money is looking to rent a small property in a popular area

They can do better, why aren’t they? They might be looking for a side business subletting your investment property online.

7. Complaints from neighbours

It pays to be friendly with your property’s neighbours or other tenants in the building. They don’t want an Airbnb party house on their block, and strangers increase the risk of crime. Ask them to keep an eye out for strangers coming and going with luggage.

8. Rent terms that are too good to be true

Finding a place to rent in Sydney is tough, and many tenants offer above the going rate. But if a tenant offers to pay lots upfront or a very high weekly rent, they may be expecting to make it back by subletting.

9. They ask to break the lease, then change their mind

If they ask to escape a lease and then back out once they hear about the break fees, chances are good they’re moving on anyway. These folks will sublet to avoid paying double rent.

None of these signs by themselves is proof, but the more signs you can see, the more likely your tenant is subletting.

To catch unauthorised subletting, you can look online, but searching for your properties every day is exhausting, not to mention pretty hard to do (Airbnb, like most subletting sites, doesn’t show exact addresses or have alerts for new properties). And Airbnb is just the tip of the iceberg; there are dozens of websites you need to check.

One tool to check multiple websites is BnbGuard, which analyses listings of short-term accommodation websites and compares them to an owner’s property.

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