A legal expert has warned that landlords face prosecution for running illegal HMOs if tenants follow Airbnb’s suggestion that they consider sub-letting.
Des Taylor (main picture), casework director at Landlord Licensing & Defence, says this is irresponsible and misleading because sub-letting violates the terms of most tenancy agreements and creates legal liabilities for landlords that could cost them thousands in fines.
He explains that most tenants and many landlords don’t realise that it only takes three people, where one is not related to all the others, to make an HMO. These regulations have offences connected to them under ‘strict liability’, which means landlords do not have to knowingly commit the offence to be guilty of it.
Taylor adds 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 an average £15,000 fine for operating an unlicensed HMO per offence.
Tenants who sublet also become the immediate landlords of their sub-tenants, meaning that any money they receive could be subject to a rent repayment order from the sub-tenant.
In the Airbnb press release, Amanda Cupples (pictured), general manager of UK & Northern Europe, said sharing a spare room on a short-term basis could allow renters to boost their income.
“We encourage renters to check the terms of their tenancy agreements and with their landlord to see if home sharing is a possibility,” she added.
Taylor says Airbnb must now explain to hosts the legal consequences of sub-letting rooms and warns landlords to keep vigilant; if they find tenants sub-letting they should not talk to the council because it would start enforcement action against the landlord, and to get immediate professional advice.
Recent research by Direct Line revealed 13% tenants sub-let their properties, half without their landlord’s consent.