Des Taylor - Legal Expert at Landlords Licensing & Defence

07 Nov 23

Airbnb, the online platform for short-term rentals, has released a survey that claims that most private tenants in the UK want to sub-let rooms in their homes to supplement their income.

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

According to Airbnb, the survey was carried out in response as part of the Renters Reform Bill debate over tenant finances.

The survey found that almost 80% of renters are looking for ways to earn extra money amidst rising living costs – and sub-letting rooms through Airbnb could help raise cash.

Airbnb also said that sub-letting could benefit landlords by reducing rent arrears and increasing tenant satisfaction.

Des Taylor, casework director at Landlord Licensing & Defence, dismissed the 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 said that sub-letting will turn many properties into houses in multiple occupation (HMOs), which are subject to strict regulations and enforcement by local authorities.

Mr Taylor said: “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 ‘3 or more persons from 2 or more households’.”

Mr 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 added 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.

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

He also warned 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 also pointed out that tenants who sublet become the immediate landlords of their subtenants. This means that any money they receive could be subject to a rent repayment order from the subtenant, who could apply to the first-tier tribunal to claim back up to 12 months of rent.

Mr Taylor warned of the dangers of not caring for the law in this matter.

He said: “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.”

In the Airbnb press release, Amanda Cupples, the general manager of UK & Northern Europe, said: “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.”

Mr Taylor said: “Airbnb must now take urgent advice on the Housing Act 2004 law on HMOs, HMO licensing, and the Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (England) Regulations 2006 to understand the massive risk their advice puts tenants and landlords at. It must then withdraw this advice and lobby the government for a change in the law to allow this possibility.”

He adds: “As things stand, this is not responsible marketing; it is marketing to have your name in the press at any price without regard for the safety from prosecution of tenants or landlords.”

Mr Taylor warned landlords to keep vigilant and if they find tenants subletting they should not talk to the council because they will commence enforcement action against the landlord and to get immediate professional advice, for example, from Landlord Licensing & Defence.

ENDS

Notes for Editors:

More info:Landlord Licensing & Defence

Media inquiries: Phil Turtle can be reached on 07867 780676 or email directors@landlordsdefence.co.uk.

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