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TODAY'S OTHER NEWS

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.

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

PLACE YOUR VOTE BELOW

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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.

  • Paul Barrett

    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.

  • Paul Barrett

    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.

    Paul Barrett

    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.

  • Paul Barrett

    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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