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Council flat Airbnb host fined £100,000

Westminster Council in London evicts the council tenant who had over 300 Airbnb reviews over several years of illegal subletting.

Sheila Manchester

Link to news of Airbnb sublet

Westminster City Council tenant, Toby Harman, 37, who became ‘Lara’ on Airbnb, let his studio apartment in Victoria since 2013 – and received more than 300 reviews.

Westminster City Council said, “Anti-fraud software had found Harman’s first name in reviews and connected the listing to him.”

His bank statements showed he had been receiving payments from Airbnb for a number of years.

He had been taken to court and, after a failed appeal, evicted and ordered to pay £100,974 in unlawful profits.

Airbnb response

Airbnb told BBC News that the council property listing had been removed from its website earlier this year.

“We regularly remind hosts to check and follow local rules – including on subsidised housing – and we take action on issues brought to our attention,” said a spokeswoman.

“Airbnb is the only platform that works with London to limit how often hosts can share their space and we support proposals from the mayor of London for a registration system to help local authorities regulate short-term lets and ensure rules are applied equally to hosts on all platforms in the Capital.”

Westminster City Council is on the case(s)

Westminster Council said it is investigating 1,500 properties in the borough regarding short-term letting, “Social housing is there to provide much-needed homes for our residents, not to generate illicit profits for dishonest tenants,” the council’s Andrew Smith said. “It’s illegal for council tenants to sublet their homes and we carry out tenancy checks, as well as monitoring short-term letting websites for any potential illegal sublets.”

Private lettings

London’s Airbnb market has quadrupled since 2015, from 20,000 to 80,000 listings. Louise Hebborn, partner at the law firm Stephensons said that almost all “well-drafted” Assured Shorthold Tenancy agreements include a provision that bans this ‘activity’ which would cover listing rooms on Airbnb.

Louise said, “Landlords in general are very cautious of having multiple people in properties because the implication of that is that the landlord has to have a Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) licence. There would also be concerns about whether the property was adequately insured.

“Westminster City Council is absolutely clear on what homeowners, private tenants and council tenants are permitted to do, regarding letting and sub letting and equally clear on their management of those who ignore the rules.”

Note: stock photo, the precise location of the apartment in this report is not known.

July 30, 2019

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