In the past 12 months, the number of incidents in which tenants have been found to be sub-letting property without the landlord’s knowledge have increased threefold.
Landlord Action says that in addition to being a breach of the tenancy agreement, the landlord may find that the terms of any mortgage and household insurance render them invalid. The firm points out that online letting platforms, such as Airbnb, give tenants greater leeway to see themselves as a business and to make some extra cash.
The problem has been highlighted on Channel Five’s Nightmare Tenants, Slum Landlords programme. In one case, a woman let her West London home to a young doctor on a three-year lease. Her neighbours contacted her about the large number of people coming and going at the address and she found that her property was being rented out as a hotel on the Airbnb website.
Landlord Action said it is concerned about properties being loaded on to sites such as Airbnb. It said it is getting more instructions from landlords to start proceedings against tenants who have sub-let their property in this way without consent.
On a more positive note, a tenant in Paris has been ordered to pay damages to the landlord after he sub-let his apartment on Airbnb without consent. According to reports, the tenant could make up to €4,000 a month for sub-letting the property and has been ordered to pay €5,000 in damages.
Paris authorities have been trying to crack down on illegal rentals, particularly landlords who are cashing in on the trend for people wanting to ‘live like a local’ in someone’s home. Paris is a leading destination for Airbnb users and its mayor indicates that more residents are complaining about the stream of visitors coming to their apartment block because a neighbour is advertising rooms.
Airbnb has grown from its initial focus on individuals offering a spare room to paying guests, becoming a significant player in a multi-billion pound business. It started as part of the ‘sharing’ economy but was quickly exploited by people who have been buying entire buildings to rent out on Airbnb and similar sites. These may not be complying with local laws or paying taxes.
There are a growing number of professional tenants who rent properties with the sole purpose of then renting them out on online sites. In these scenarios, both tenants and landlords could be at risk if there is a problem and it transpires that the property should not be sub-let in such a way or that there is inadequate insurance in place.
There are a number of ways in which landlords can make sure that their properties are not being monetised on Airbnb. They can install digital lock systems in order to track the comings and goings of tenants and to control who has keys.
Landlords and management companies can also search Airbnb and similar sites themselves to see if their properties are listed. Although exact addresses are not listed, they will soon be able to identify their property from pictures of the building, furniture or decor.
In addition to including a clause prohibiting sub-letting in any tenancy agreement, it may be wise to explicitly exclude the marketing of the property on Airbnb and similar sites.