Short lets: £100k fine for Airbnb ‘sub-let’ and another council starts probe
A council tenant has been fined £100,000 and evicted because he let out his flat via Airbnb.
The Times reports that Toby Harman created the fake identity Lara on Airbnb to let out his studio apartment in Victoria, central London.
He had advertised it for six years and had over 300 reviews, but anti-fraud software used by Westminster city council discovered Harman’s real name in some reviews, prompting the action.
He had been taken to court and, after a failed appeal, evicted and ordered to pay £100,974 in unlawful profits.
Meanwhile another local authority – Belfast in Northern Ireland – is starting an investigation into the impact of Airbnb and other short lets platforms on the local housing market, specifically for tenants.
According to the Belfast Telegraph there have been reports of a 40 per cent surge in Airbnb and HomeAway bookings in Northern Ireland over the last year.
One local councillor in the city, Kate Nicholl, says that in south Belfast former long-term private lets are being transformed into ultra-short-term Airbnb properties
“I recognise that there are positives as well as negatives. Airbnbs are cheap, and easy to book – I’ve used them myself – but there are concerns as well, especially in areas where there are issues around about community cohesion. We also need to know the impact Airbnb has on our hotels, as well as on traditional B&Bs” she is quoted as saying.
“We need to explore whether we will soon need measures to cap the numbers of Airbnb, as has been done elsewhere.”
The newspaper also quotes Professor Paddy Gray as saying: “Short-term Airbnb letting restricts the amount of private rental accommodation available for people who cannot get access to social housing.
“They’re often located in areas of high housing demand, and the private sector would often have been the only housing solution available for people who would have no chance of getting access to social housing.”