This summer’s staycation boom has led to a leap in bookings on sites like Airbnb and Booking.com. The trend comes with a warning from property litigation specialist Hägen Wolf to landlords as tenants in holiday hotspots may seek to cash-in.
While tourists might see private lettings as a cost-effective option, many listings are illegal sublets which can cause landlords problems. Some local councils are increasing regulation to limit the number of nights per year that a property can be let out as a holiday let, currently 90 days per calendar year in London.
Where a tenant sublets a property to tourists, it is usually in breach of their tenancy agreement and in the case of flats, often also in breach of the landlord’s own lease. Sometimes this is done by tenants looking to make extra money but can also be run by organised gangs who may be in control of multiple properties at any one time.
Philip Copley, a solicitor at Leeds-based Hägen Wolf, said: “If a landlord believes that their tenant is subletting on Airbnb or similar websites, then action must be taken quickly, particularly if the property is a flat, so as not to risk action against them by the building owner.
“A notice under section 8 of the Housing Act 1988 can be served on the named tenant about their breaches. While such notices are based on discretionary grounds; meaning a Judge can decide whether or not the breach is sufficient to justify eviction, in our experience Judges take a dim view of such conduct and will often award possession to the landlord, along with costs.”
Hägen Wolf advises landlords to gather evidence to support any court claim, such as screenshots of any web listings, and images from CCTV. Where possible, neighbours should be encouraged to provide witness statements.
If the landlord does not take action, then they risk potentially losing their flat. The building owner can make an application to the Residential Property division of the First-tier Tribunal (Property Chamber) for a determination that there has been a breach of the lease.
Once that has happened, the building owner would then serve the landlord with a notice under section 146 of the Law of Property Act 1925, and then begin court proceedings to evict them. The process is known as ‘forfeiture’, and it means that the ownership of the flat will revert to the landlord, who can then sell it and keep the sale proceeds.
Mr Copley added: “Landlords need to ensure that their tenants are properly vetted, and all reference checks come back clean, to minimise the risk of anything like this happening. The property should also be comprehensively insured in case any damage caused is covered.”
The BBC reported that last year Airbnb listings in London had increased fourfold between 2015 and 2019, up to 80,000, or one listing per 112 residents.
There have been multiple reports over the years about out-of-hand parties at AirBnB flats, including one just a few weeks ago at a luxury skyscraper in Canary Wharf.