Airbnb: Is sharing caring?
If you are a homeowner thinking about letting your house on Airbnb, should you?
If your home is a flat that you own on a long lease, you might be cautious.
Flat owners sometimes forget that they have a long lease. But the lease of the property matters.
The promises which the landlord and tenant make in the lease, known as ‘covenants’, give freeholders rights that they can enforce. Airbnb use is a breach of a covenant, that the property should only be used for residential use for one family. Airbnb also breaches a covenant against parting with or sharing possession of the property.
In London, use of a residential property for Airbnb for more than 90 days a year is a breach of planning regulations. Elsewhere in the UK there is no limit on the number of days for which a property can be let.
As long as a house or flat is used to provide residential accommodation for the occupiers, Cambridge City Council takes the view that there is no breach of planning.
Home insurance may not cover Airbnb use: it depends upon the terms of the policy but a standard home insurance policy probably isn’t enough. Airbnb says that it does provide its own cover for homeowners. Airbnb use may also be a breach of mortgage terms.
Concerns have been expressed in the press lately that Airbnb accommodation isn’t safe.
Anyone who has paying guests in a property must carry out a fire risk assessment and have the assessment available. Airbnb hosts who let out the whole house or flat must install smoke and carbon monoxide alarms. If you just rent a room, it might not have a smoke alarm. Airbnb states that smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are a universal requirement but it has no means of policing this other than reports from guests who have rented premises that don’t have alarms.
The local authority, which enforces the fire regulations, has no means of knowing if a property is being let on Airbnb. Airbnb does not give addresses of host properties until a booking has been made.
Cities are learning how to deal with the problems that Airbnb causes: loss of properties to the local market, party houses causing nuisance to neighbours, the illegal use of properties, the unfortunately named ‘pop-up brothel’ being one example. It seems inevitable that more regulation of Airbnb is coming.
Andrea Nicholls is a senior associate specialising in property litigation at Penningtons Manches’ Cambridge office.
Read other columns by Penningtons Manches