Westminster council has successfully prosecuted a council tenant for sub-letting his apartment in Victoria, Central London, to a large number of tourists over several years.
The council tenant was advertising his apartment using a fake profile on Airbnb. There are conflicting reports on how the council became aware of the subletting. However, it is likely to be a combination of neighbours contacting the council due to the noise and rubbish left behind by guests and the council using anti-fraud software.
Westminster council are reported to have used anti-fraud software to discover over 300 reviews of the property in which some mentioned the tenant by name. They had also obtained the tenant’s bank statements which showed that the tenant had been receiving money from Airbnb for a number of years.
The tenant has been fined £100,000 and evicted from the property being sub-let.
Westminster council is calling for a compulsory cross-platform registration scheme for property owners to make it easier to take action against misuse of council properties.
This is a social property and private landlords do not have the same rights where tenants sub-let properties in breach of contract. However, it is clear that local authorities and the courts are increasingly aware of the issues caused by the growth of unauthorised short lettings and landlords and agents should be keenly aware of who is residing in their properties. Regular inspections are therefore recommended especially in arears where tourist interest is likely to be high.