We’ve all heard of Airbnb, some of us have used it as guests and some may have been hosts or thought about it.  It is one of the many things that look easy to do because it is online.

Owners, especially long leaseholders, have a range of legal obligations that may apply to them.  Airbnb won’t give you legal advice about these, and disclaims all liability for the conduct of hosts, so it is up to you to get it right.  If you are thinking about being an Airbnb host you need to plan and protect yourself.

Here are some of the pitfalls owners and leaseholders should be aware of before offering your property on Airbnb:-

  • Health & Safety – Fire Safety, Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarms
  • Insurance – Both Household & Property.  Be aware that if you are in a flat with a block contract you may not be able to change that or it may cost you money.  Airbnb warns that the cover it offers does not replace this.
  • Mortgage Lender – Most mortgages exclude subletting, or require permission to be obtained, which may be at a fee or require higher interest rate.
  • Your Lease – Most leases contain restrictions on use and sub-letting.  Many restrict flats and houses to “a single private residence”.  There is already a court decision that lettings for days or weeks is a breach of this restriction.  You are also likely to be responsible to other leaseholders and neighbours for noise or nuisance caused by your guests.
  • Planning – Subletting may be a breach of planning law.  Special rules apply in London.
  • Taxation – Income from Airbnb is taxable.  There is a limited exemption for letting part of their main residence.  There are indications that the Treasury and HMRC will be asking more questions about this type of income in future.

Some of these laws have criminal sanctions, some may lead to substantial personal liability.  At the least you may face a lot more stress and cost than you anticipated.

There is more detailed advice from the Leasehold Advisory Service here.  This was set up in 1994 to provide free information, initial advice and guidance to members of the public about residential leasehold law. Lease’s advice is independent and impartial.