Could you spot an Airbnb sub-let?

Posted on 13 Nov, 2019

A new style of sub-letting is gripping the UK’s private rental market, causing chaos for letting agents, property managers and landlords alike. The prevalence is such that the BBC ran a special Inside Out exposé on the matter in late October, highlighting how the art of slyly sub-letting a room has now turned into a lucrative money-spinner for some tenants.

Sub-letting has always been an issue in rental properties (read our general blog on the matter here) but the growing popularity of short holiday let sites has allowed the practice to flourish, with companies such as Airbnb seemly powerless (or unwilling) to clamp down.

More often than not, short let or holiday sub-letting concentrates on high-quality properties that appeal to tourists and command attractive daily or weekly rents. The Inside Out episode focused on one particular tenant who was using Airbnb to sub-let a property he was renting in Bloomsbury via a letting agent, with more than 70 booking reviews already published.

So how can a landlord or letting agent detect if Airbnb-style sub-letting is happening? What we’d call ‘old fashioned’ sub-letting has subtly different tell-tale signs. During inspections agents would be looking for evidence of someone sleeping on the sofa, more refuse being generated than expected and signs of overcrowding. Airbnb sub-letting, however, has an altogether different set of red flags.

Our Viewbers are perfectly placed to pay regular visits to properties that are prime sub-letting targets. Signs unique to holiday lets that our Viewbers will be vigilant for include:

- The installation of a wall-mounted key safe

- The arrival of daily laundry maids and weekly cleaners

- Suitcases left in hallways and bedrooms

- ‘Welcome’ packs left out

- Empty kitchen cupboards and a lack of non-perishable food

- High-end toiletries and neatly folded towels in bathrooms

- A ‘spotless’ approach to cleaning and tidiness

Other indicators of Airbnb subletting agents can be aware of include:

- Neighbours reporting an endless stream of different people coming and going

- People only ever arriving and departing by taxi

- The property appearing as a listing on short-let holiday sites

While it’s tempting to assume that if a tenant is going to the trouble of providing chocolates on the pillow and a weekly cleaner they are actually looking after the property, this is merely to encourage positive reviews and actually detracts from the fact that a constantly changing rota of guests will increase the level of wear and tear on the property. Airbnb sub-letting will probably invalidate the landlord’s insurance, breach mortgage terms and conditions, and break HMO licensing laws too.

It’s worth pointing out that some landlords are starting to allow tenants to sub-let via Airbnb and if there is full permission, this scenario still requires close monitoring – with inspections provided by Viewber a useful service in safeguarding a property.   

If you’d like to book frequent property visits to monitor the conditions and use of a property you are connected with, please contact the Viewber team today.

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