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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