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Is it illegal to Airbnb your garden retreat?

The rise of platforms such as Airbnb has opened up new possibilities to generate extra income by renting out spaces. 

From spare rooms to entire homes, the options seem endless. However, as the trend evolves, so do the legal and regulatory considerations.

One intriguing avenue gaining attention is the idea of renting out garden buildings on Airbnb. 


Russell Atkinson, chief executive at Crane Garden Buildings, says it's crucial to understand the legal implications first before jumping on the bandwagon. 

He comments: “It is paramount to exercise due diligence when assessing the intended use of your garden building, particularly when contemplating using it as an extended residential space. 

“While there are indeed structures available on the UK market that adhere to building regulations and hold legal recognition as suitable accommodation, it is equally vital to acknowledge the existence of those that do not. If you fail to distinguish between the two, homeowners could be exposed to significant legal complications."

So, how can you successfully rent out your garden building on Airbnb? Property and planning experts shed more light on the issue, with a guide on everything you need to know before listing your garden building as an Airbnb property. 


Are you breaking the law by renting your garden building? 

Stefan Hohhelner, manager at Your Airhost and an expert in Airbnb property management, states: “Homeowners are not breaking the law by listing their garden building as accommodation so long as they follow legal requirements stipulated by their council, which can be found on the council’s website. 

“If you are converting an outbuilding like a garden building into a room for people to live in, it is your responsibility to ensure that you have the correct permissions before allowing someone to sleep inside.”


What planning regulations do you need to list your garden building on Airbnb?

"Adherence to specific building regulations is imperative when considering the utilisation of a garden building for accommodation," says Crane Garden Buildings’ Russell Atkinson.

He suggests that it’s important to note that garden buildings designated for office space or recreational purposes do not typically fall under the purview of these regulations and, therefore, typically do not necessitate building permissions. 

“However, should a garden building transition into a permanent residence, a distinct set of regulations and standards must be met to ensure its legality. These encompass critical aspects such as the building's foundation, insulation, and sanitation facilities.

Furthermore, it is crucial to underscore that homeowners who choose to rent out their garden buildings without meeting these specific building regulations risk breaching the law, which may result in legal consequences and the potential need for costly remediation. 

“Compliance with these regulations is not only a legal requirement but also ensures the safety and wellbeing of occupants, emphasising the significance of adhering to these essential standards.”

This is specifically related to following Building Regulations, which ensure that the quality of the building’s structure is safe enough for people to sleep in. Planning regulations include:

  • Foundations and floor construction
  • Insulation and double glazing
  • Electricity
  • Drainage

Your Airhost’s Hohhelner adds: “For a garden building to come under 'self-contained accommodation’, you may need to apply for a rental licence via an online property licensing service that can also be found on your local authority’s website.”

What are the penalties for doing this illegally?

“If you do not have the correct permissions for converting your garden building into accommodation, your local authority can take action” warns Hohhelner. 

“The way this is handled can vary depending on the local council, but typically, if someone is found to be breaking the rules regarding planning permission, they will receive an official notice called an Enforcement Notice. 

“This notice tells them what they need to do to fix the situation. However, it's really important to act quickly because if you don't make the necessary changes within 21 days of getting the notice, you could end up being taken to court or facing fines that have no set limit.”


What if I want to rent out my garden building while I’m still repaying my mortgage? 

Anton Osborne, director at independent solicitors Taylor Rose, claims: “Most owner-occupier mortgages would not allow Airbnb short-term lets as they are very proscriptive in their use of the property. 

“Mortgage products for buy-to-let properties are very different from those offered to people buying their own homes to live in. 

“A mortgage lender can ask the borrower to rectify any breach of their mortgage conditions and if the borrower fails to do so then they risk being repossessed (and any legal or administrative costs incurred by the lender as a result of this breach will be added to the mortgage), even if the breach is rectified and no re-possession proceedings started.

“In respect of bypassing legal issues, most homeowners are simply ignoring them. Many people breach covenants, planning permission, and their mortgage conditions, and no enforcement action is taken. 

“Many local authorities simply don’t have the resources to be reviewing all Airbnb listings to see if they have the requisite planning permissions and mortgage lenders in reality rarely take action against borrowers as long as they keep up the repayments.”

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