Airbnb is a global, online marketplace which matches homeowners with guests in regard to short-term homestays and/or tourism experiences in cities all over the world. It has emerged as one of the most successful and most popular rental services and hospitality companies globally thanks to its distinct advantages:

  • It allows homeowners to make extra income by renting out a room temporarily (a relatively low-risk, high-return approach).
  • It empowers travellers to seek low-cost or non-traditional accommodations.

Like other disruptive innovations, Airbnb has its fair share of controversy. The shift from hotels to Airbnb lodgings has led to cities losing out on millions on tourism taxes and once quiet neighbourhoods are being swamped with short-term sublets who may be too rowdy for one’s liking. In addition, while the ‘risk’ is deemed particularly low for those letting out their premises, the laws governing the rights and responsibilities of landlords and their guests aren’t clearly defined, and as such, this can have serious ramifications in circumstances where something does go awry.

There have been a handful of highly publicised incidents involving Airbnb guests occupying premises under false pretences, and others involving the questionable health and safety conditions of premises being rented via the room-sharing platform.

In 2016 a home rented in Putney through Airbnb was severely damaged after the guest held a party, with the same year seeing a balcony in Brighton collapse with four Airbnb guests injured in the process. Despite lawsuits being settled, the regulation of these properties is still an ongoing process – mainly due to the company’s global presence and legislation differing in many countries when it comes to health and safety and rental licencing and permissions.

Potential consequences for landlords

Airbnb operates in a legal grey area when it comes to navigating the murky waters of homeowner insurance and business related activities. Typically, a homeowner insurance policy excludes business-related activities as the property is not structured as corporate premises. This makes claims against the landlord (where a guest suffers an injury) or claims of property damage by the landlord difficult to traverse when it comes to insurance – particularly where liability is concerned. While Airbnb does offer Host Protection Insurance and has a track record of covering damage costs in the event of lessee fraud and false pretence, this doesn’t take the place of a substantial home insurance policy and as such, coverage can be problematic if a problem does arise.

Moreover, depending on where your property is located, you may be subject to specific planning regulations that dictate whether your premises is subject to additional costs as a result of letting. For instance, under UK property regulations, if a premises is available to let for 140 days or more per year it is classified as a self-catering property and consequently subject to business rates. Rates will be based on the property type, size, location and how many guests are able to stay in your listing.

This should certainly be considered and properly researched prior to advertising on Airbnb as you may be required to apply to your local council for a “change of use” to classify your property as commercial rather than residential.

If you are a responsible for the mortgage on your property, you need to ensure that subletting is permitted as the bank or mortgage company are invested in your property and as such, have a legal interest in its maintenance and upkeep.

As a landlord, your responsibilities for maintaining the property and ensuring your guests’ safety are the same under Airbnb’s rental terms and conditions. The company isn’t liable for upkeep, so ensuring that the structural integrity of your building and any fire, gas and electrical safety regulations are up to standard is your duty to the guests.

Protecting your guests, your home and yourself

If you’re planning to become an Airbnb host by listing your property on the Airbnb site, here are a few things you need to consider:

  • Check with your local council on its short-term rental legislation. In London, the Deregulation Act of 2015 allows homeowners to rent out their premises for up to 90 nights per calendar year without being considered a ‘change of use’. This means, once your property in London has been rented out for 90 days in a year, Airbnb automatically limits your listing unless you have planning permission to host more frequently.
  • If you own a leasehold property, chances are you will find a clause restricting your rights to sublet without the freeholder’s consent.
  • Check any terms and conditions in both your mortgage and insurance which may include clauses prohibiting your leasing of the premises.

Once you have established that your premises are able to be leased for short-term with Airbnb, the next step is clearly and comprehensively outlining what is allowed for guests staying at your property. This may include:

  • If you allow parties, pets or smoking.
  • Outline the ramifications if the rules are broken.
  • Ensure your insurance coverage is substantial and up-to-date.

How to resolve a dispute

The potential for a nightmare Airbnb guest is well documented, with stories gaining widespread media attention following the company’s prolific rise to success. But often not mentioned are disputes among neighbours who resent short-term guests holding wild parties and exhibiting anti-social behaviours.

If your Airbnb guests have left you with a flood of complaints from your neighbours, it’s wise to talk to them and resolve the issue directly. However, if they have taken their case to the First-Tier Tribunal (Property Chamber) which handles disputes over property and land, then it is best that you seek help from an experienced property solicitor like Foys.

At Foys Solicitors, we have a proven track record of assisting landlords in the understanding of their rights and responsibilities as well as in best protecting themselves and their finances. To get in touch simply fill out our Online Form or call your local Foys Solicitors office:

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This post is not legal advice and should not replace professional advice tailored to your specific circumstances. It is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.

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