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Airbnb sub-letting call explodes into national media controversy

An Airbnb survey first reported last week on Landlord Today has exploded into a national newspaper controversy.

Airbnb claims that almost 80 per cent of renters are looking for ways to supplement their income amidst rising living costs.

And the short let’s platform says in a statement: “Very few renters, however, are able to share space in their homes as a means to make ends meet. In fact, over half (55 per cent) of renters say they would share a spare room if they were allowed to do so, but only a fraction say that they believe their landlord permits it.”


Over the weekend the Daily Mail reported that one landlord was up in arms to find her property advertised on Airbnb - by her long term tenant and without her permission. 

Now this rumpus has provoked a strong reaction from a landlord law expert who says that sub-letting is illegal and highly risky for both tenants and landlords under current legislation.

Des Taylor, casework director at Landlord Licensing & Defence, dismissed the Airbnb recommendations as irresponsible and misleading, saying that sub-letting violates the terms of most tenancy agreements and creates legal liabilities for landlords that could cost £10,000s in fines.

He warns that sub-letting will turn many properties into HMOs which are subject to strict regulations and enforcement by local authorities.

Taylor says: “Most tenants and many landlords do not realise that it only takes three people, where one is not related to all the others, to make an HMO.

“In legal terms, it is ‘three or more persons from two or more households’.”

Taylor says that Airbnb's survey was 'an interesting concept which will invite many landlords to curse Airbnb since based on this bad advice, tenants will now create illegal houses in multiple occupation which have many regulations which need to be complied with’.

He adds that these regulations have offences connected to them under something called ‘strict liability’, which means that landlords do not have to knowingly commit the offence to be guilty of it.

“A tenant subletting, and unwittingly creating a house in multiple occupation makes the landlord liable for punitive enforcement from the local housing authority” he says.

He also warns that in over a third of the London boroughs there are ‘additional licensing’ schemes which regulate occupancy, and that landlords who have become HMO managers without their knowledge face 'an extreme risk' of fines up to £30,000 for each offence under the HMO management regulations and on average £15,000 fine for operating an unlicensed HMO per offence.

He concludes: "Whatever Airbnb’s survey results are, they are not going to assist landlords and are going to drive even more out of the business as they become more insistent that it is impossible to continue while tenants are encouraged by mega-corporations publishing results of surveys without any regard for the underlying law.

“Airbnb must now explain to its hosts and potential hosts the legal consequences of sub-letting rooms in their homes and how legally dangerous this would be.”

Amanda Cupples, the general manager of UK & Northern Europe, states: “Sharing a spare room on a short-term basis can allow renters to boost their income and help them with the increasing cost of living. We encourage renters to check the terms of their tenancy agreements and with their landlord to see if home sharing is a possibility.”

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    It demonstrates to me that AirBnB don't know what they are proposing. They are not PRS experts or have any understanding of legislation involved, particularly in respect of HMOs. AirBnB just see this as a potential money making strategy where they will offer to find short term tenants for your spare rooms. They have no concren on the legal impact this will have on the tenant or landlord.

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    As things stand any extra occupants are there without permission, not on the tenancy agreement, not passed right to rent checks, and so it would be a breach of the tenancy and grounds to give notice. If I had a tenant who wanted to sub let I'd say find a smaller place if you have so much spare room.

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    In Scotland in my flats, would be in breach of STL Licensing. It was an irresponsible post.

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    We commented on this last week and it was totally irresponsible to suggest this

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    Does HMO legislation actually cover short-term airbnb type agreements where NO "residential" tenancies (ie in the sense of the subject property forming the main or only residence of the tenant(s) concerned) are created?


    No it doesn't, but if you have back to back short term let's I think the room would be considered as permanently let to an unrelated person and hence it would deem the property as an HMO.


    This is not straightforward and as always the article will be weighted to create the most controversy. It only becomes a HMO if the person staying will be there for more than is considered reasonable and does not have a main residence. As an example, if a tenant has a friend staying for a week is it now a HMO, of course not. The same would apply for a AirBNB.
    Now of course a lawyer may wish to confuse the matter, I wonder why!!?
    For added info in my experience most Council's are happy to have visits of up to 3 weeks before they start being concerned.
    Of course this will not be the end to the matter, as where there is extra money someone always finds a way to take it off you!

  • Richard LeFrak

    There is also an insurance implication to this. I think AirBnB have got this one wrong but I can see their reasoning as a load of local councils have tried to sabotage their business model.


    ...and mortgage!

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    It’s just another ridiculous consequence of the most idiotic law in the UK. A HMO licence

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    With ‘three or more persons from two or more households’, how does the Rent a Room fare, unless it is a single person renting a room to another single person?
    I recall HMRC having special rules for renting a room.

    I also wonder how three or more students sharing a house fare?

    Presumably, three generations of the same family are okay, as long as they live as a family e.g. eat some meals together.

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    There are so many Regulation’s and unfair Compliances now placed on landlords, its clear we are at severe risk of fines, penalties, banning orders or imprisonment. This needs to stop now even to do one Tenants Agreement there’s over 50 issues to deal with, how many of you do all this I believe none because it’s so onerous. unfair and plain wrong that amount of bull is enough to Collapse any business if this is what to Authorities want’s
    good the more Homeless the better they deserve it.


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