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Airbnb tenant subletting scam exposed

There is a growing issue of tenants subletting their rental properties on websites like Airbnb, with some renters inappropriately using it to profit from their landlord’s asset.

One landlord’s ordeal is to be highlighted on this evening’s episode of BBC Inside Out (London), on BBC One from 7.30pm. It will tell the story of a landlord who ended up £10,000 out of pocket after his tenants ‘professionally’ sublet his property in Bloomsbury on Airbnb.

The tenants had a 22-month AST arranged through Base Property Specialists ltd. But during a periodic inspection, consented to by the tenants, the agent arrived early to witness the tenants checking a family into the property. On returning to the office, the agent reviewed Airbnb to find the property listed both as a single dwelling and as two separate bedroom rooms. 


Shockingly, Airbnb had more than 70 booking reviews for the property, with the first being the same month that the tenants’ tenancy commenced, showing they had been subletting it from the beginning.

Base Property contacted the tenants informing them that they were breaching a number of licensing laws and instructing them to remove all listings from Airbnb (and any other sites they may have used), cancel all bookings, remove the key safe they had installed and make good any damage that had been caused. The tenants were offered two courses of action: to re-occupy the property themselves or surrender under the contractual Early Termination Agreement, which at that point totalled £4,295.00. 

Despite the tenants requesting to stay and subsequently removing the key safe and repairing the damage, Base Property continued to receive reports from neighbours of people coming and going. When the agent arranged for a plumber to fix a maintenance issue, he was told by the occupants, a Russian family, that they did not speak English and were renting the property.

Kristjan Byfield of Base Property, said: “One thing I found extremely disappointing was Airbnb’s refusal to take any action whatsoever. When we contacted them and provided evidence that the “hosts” were not the legal owners of the property and were in breach of the landlord’s mortgage and buildings insurance terms, local licensing laws, and both short-term let and HMO licensing, their response was take it up with the tenants.”

By this point, the tenants were refusing to engage with the agent.  They continued to host on Airbnb despite denying it, even using a professional laundry service to prepare the beds.  They refused access to contractors who were due to fix a leak, causing further damage to the property.

Byfield called in the help of eviction specialist Paul Shamplina of Landlord Action who served the tenants with a Section 8 notice and thereafter, the Landlord Action solicitors issued possession proceedings.

Shamplina commented: “Kristjan and his team had done everything correctly. They had obtained thorough references, carried out regular property inspections and even given the tenants the opportunity to put the situation right when they were caught out. 

“Unfortunately, unauthorised use for short lets is a growing problem, as Westminster Planning Enforcement team will discuss on the show, and councils are struggling to cope with the volume of cases. At Landlord Action, we always have a number of sub-letting cases at any one time, particularly from landlords whose tenants have sub-let via Airbnb without consent.”

Byfield and Shamoplina are both calling for Airbnb to do more to prevent unauthorised hosts. 

Shamoplina added: “Their [Shamplina’s] unwillingness to take responsibility and make improvements is damaging to the private rented sector.” 

Watch the whole story today on BBC One at 7.30pm.

Want to comment on this story? If so...if any post is considered to victimise, harass, degrade or intimidate an individual or group of individuals on any basis, then the post may be deleted and the individual immediately banned from posting in future.

Poll: Have you ever been the victim of a tenant subletting your rental property?


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    Had the same with one of mine, which I found by chance just browsing AirBnB. I did not give them an option, but just served notice on be gone. I did contact AirBnB but despite reminders, did not even get the courtesy of a reply.

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    • 28 October 2019 09:12 AM

    AirBnB is party to massive amounts of fraud.
    I know of no lenders apart from possibly one nor insurer nor freeholder that allow AirBnB.
    This is reducing rental stock for normal tenants causing further upward pressures on rents as though there are not enough already!!
    Such sub-letting should be seen as a criminal offence.
    It is FRAUD after all.
    Immediate removal by Police if LL wishes

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    Airbnb should be ashamed of themselves. As well as conniving with fraudsters and other law breakers, destroying the peace and quiet of many residential neighbourhoods, they are putting innocent property owners at risk of bankruptcy if their insurers refused to pay out in the event of airbnb subtenants causing a fire etc.

    This tenant should be jailed and Airbnb fined several millions to make them take their responsibilities more seriously.

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    • 28 October 2019 10:23 AM

    Totally CORRECT!!
    BUT of course Govt DOESN'T want to see their low wage crappy gig economy compromised.
    So they even assist fraud as HMRC don't seem to be checking!
    Mind you can HMRC tax immoral earnings!?
    They do in France and Holland.

    I've also heard on R4 that AirBnB is putting thousands of B & B owners out of business..which is why so many are selling up.........................So that must be a massive tax loss!
    Moving away from Regulated activity to the gig economy actually results in massive tax losses

  • Kristjan Byfield

    We were quite frankly staggered by Airbnb's 'not our problem, talk to the host' approach when we advised them the property was being illegally sub-let. Their attitude and (lack of) action was clear evidence that they are complicit in these actions and actually enable them. Unbeknown to us, the sub-letting had caused misery to several neighbours for months before we discovered the situation and commenced action. The tenants that did this think this is all over for them- that is not at all the case as our client will be pursuing them through the courts for his losses once we have finalised what those exactly are having secured a new tenancy.
    With increasing legislation across PRS the government need to legislate across all markets otherwise the very miscreants targetted by this legislation will simply move to a nother market-sector where they can act largely as they see fit- in this instance the short let market.
    I am not against short lets but it should be regulated (in line with PRS) and stock levels limitted to avoid negative impacts on general housing market supply. Airbnb must also be held to account for its role in matters and be forced to act more diligently or fined heavily when seen to be facilitating an illegal sub-let.

    • 28 October 2019 12:18 PM

    But you know this is never going to happen despite you being totally correct with everything you have stated.
    LL are always in the lose lose situation and Govt DOESN'T care.

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    When we used to let a property for holiday lets on OwnersDirect, now owned by Holiday Lettings I think, we had to provide evidence that we owned the property as well as passports etc. It seems that Airbnb are not in the slightest bit interested in who is letting property on their site, all they care about is their income.

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    • 28 October 2019 18:57 PM

    Surely if by lack of DD then AitBnB is part of criminal conspiracy in facilitating FRAUD.
    Anyone else would be investigated by the NCA.
    AirBnB is the facility which allows fraud to occur.
    They are like the Mafia.
    Without AirBnB it is doubtful that all this FRAUD would be occurring.

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    I had a so called Company who sent their representative to me this summer when I had a property to let, he insisted they were a Company specializing in accommodating for wealthy people from Middle-east and would take the property for full rent. He kept coming back for two weeks trying to get it and couldn't understand why I would not give it to him, he told me they had 46 houses this way and never had a problem. I have no doubt they are operating as Airbnb and with the others also, obviously they would make as much income as me and money in the Bank prior to occupants arriving, nice work if you can get it, just imagine they make probably more than you without owning anything or Mortgage to worry about. They are in direct competition with us without having all the mad rules / sanctions / Penalties / licensing schemes etc, have control over what they do unlike us that have no control whatsoever over our property anymore, now that the last glimmer of control is gone with the removal of Section 21.

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    There are a few issues here.....first is that Airbnb are devastating communities through their business model - which makes property prices increase and out of reach for lower income families and local residents.
    The other issue is that the rental market in many UK cities is booming due to the out of reach house prices. This sees landlords building up property portfolios in 'popular locations' again pushing up prices and keeping houses out of reach of residents. The rent in these areas is then increased constantly making the living conditions of renters even more dire.

    Renters often have no choice but to sublet, either with a lodger or through Airbnb.

    While the property owner is entitled to feel aggrieved at this use of their property for a number of reasons....especially when the tenant is running a full time AirBnb business there needs to be some discussion around the tenant who rents out the property once or twice a month in order to pay the rent and bills.

    To give an example. In my area the average 3 bed house is £1300 pcm.....a divorced father of two children on £2000 a month after tax and before child maintenance payments would be left with £700 a month to pay council tax, bills, food and other costs....if running a car then that makes an impact.

    There is no other support. In this context renting out the house on airbnb twice a month for example...at £200 a night would be a support. It would also be in the tenants interest to make the place look as amazing as possible in order to attract customers....and thus doing the landlord a favour....as they help to push the prices of property up in the area....as part of that cycle.

    A large part of the issue at the end of the day is landlords buying up properties and making them unaffordable for others.

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    Hi Peter Rachman, what a coincidence goodness me any connection to your name sake.
    I agree with most of your comment although 2 years late and the situation now even worse. I have great sympathy for the Divorced man with 2 children to cope with very often caused directly by Government Policy. Hence 42% of marriages end in divorce the Government obviously don’t want stable family units, which is why so many get divorced to go on the Benefits system, far better off financially without a partner, gov’ likes it even better if you have same sex partner now days not for me to comment on that. So the lady with kids get housed, all family kept, kids educated and their welfare looked after, many husbands not able to compete with this with the best will in the World so we end up with a broken Society courtesy of our piers, 3m on housing Benefit, 5m on Universal Credit no need to elaborate on the further 1.5m.
    AirBnB you covered pretty well to be fair to you with the exception of Corporate Company Let’s the cloak hiding most AirBnB activity which is rampant under radar namely Rent to Rent what a scam no ownership, no Mortgage to pay or worry about no compliance really the owner is the fall guy, the Authorities know all this but turn a blind eye, just keep on about Rogue LL.
    Tyson congrats’ you done Morecambe proud.


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