Airbnb's simple listing process can be very tempting to prospective hosts. However, many people may not realise that Airbnb is just another way of advertising property. It's less expensive than using a letting agent, true, but it still doesn't release you from all the regulations which apply to renting property in the UK. If you do not comply with your legal obligations as a 'host', you can be prosecuted and fined - and your 'guests' may be entitled to sue you for compensation.
The small print
Airbnb's Terms & Conditions state that hosts using the site must not
'violate any local, state, provincial, national, or other law or regulation, or any order of a court, including, without limitation, zoning restrictions and tax regulations'.
Although some help is available online, Airbnb doesn't give its hosts detailed guidance on the legal rules and regulations which apply in the various countries where it operates. The onus is on you to know the law and ensure you are operating within it. Ignorance of the law is not a valid reason to neglect your obligations as a landlord/Airbnb host.
Your home, your rules - right?
Not always. It's true that, as a host, you can impose terms and conditions on the guest that they need to comply with while they stay at your property. Asking your guests to behave appropriately and keeping your neighbours informed about your Airbnb arrangement will help your relationship with those living in the surrounding area.
However, just because you own or rent a property does not necessarily mean that you have the right to do what you like with it. For example, if you rent your home, you'll have to ask your landlord whether you're allowed to sub-let it. Even if you own the property, you will still need to check with your mortgage provider if you want to rent.
Furthermore, most lets via Airbnb are for relatively short periods. However, there are often local regulations forbidding short-term lets. If you're unsure of the rules for short-term letting in your area, contact your Local Authority planning department.
Sub-letting vs leasing your own property
If you own your property on a long lease, you need to take care to read your lease agreement before doing anything. It may prohibit sub-letting, in which case you cannot host your property on Airbnb or you may face serious consequences by breaching your contract.
If you have a mortgage, you should check the terms of your mortgage deed to see whether you are allowed to rent out your property. Also, if you're renting to sharers, you may also need to get an HMO license or risk prosecution and a hefty fine.
You should also make sure that renting to Airbnb 'guests' doesn't invalidate your insurance policy. Airbnb provides a "£600,000 Host Guarantee" for certain types of damage to the host's property, but it also gives a disclaimer that the Host Guarantee should not be considered a replacement or stand-in for other insurance. Plus, the Host Guarantee doesn't protect cash and securities, pets, personal liability (which you'll need if someone renting your property is injured) or shared/common areas.
Types of occupancy
Your rights as an Airbnb host depend partly on the legal type of occupation your 'guests' have. There are two main types of occupancy: a license and a tenancy. The occupancy type for your Airbnb guests depends on the circumstances in which they stay in your property, and the fact that Airbnb describes people as 'hosts' and 'guests' doesn't change their occupation rights.
Some situations result in a license. For example, if you rent out a room in your own home while you are living there and share living accommodation, this is a lodger situation and it will normally be a license. Also, if your guests are sharing a room in a situation similar to hostels, this is a license.
If you are letting a boat (like a houseboat), this will be a license as a boat is not considered "land" and therefore cannot be the subject of a tenancy.
Other situations are a tenancy. For example, unless you are living in the property (as in lodgers above), renting out a private room will normally be a tenancy. Guests renting out the whole property will almost certainly be a tenancy. To complicate things further, there are different types of tenancy. An assured shorthold tenancy is the 'default' tenancy type which will be created (under the Housing Act 1988) unless one of the exceptions apply (you can find more details in the official legislation here
Your obligations as a 'host'
Some obligations are universal - for example, health and safety obligations. Probably the most important of these are the gas regulations. If you rent property in any way, you must get your property inspected annually by a Gas Safe engineer and obtain a certificate. If you are renting out the whole property, this certificate must be provided to the occupiers, and if you rent out private rooms or let your home for less than 28 days, you need to display a copy of the certificate in a prominent place in the property. You also need to comply with the various other safety regulations such as the furniture regulations. Also, fire safety law applies if anyone pays to stay in your property on a short-term basis (see our page for more details on fire safety).
Disclaimer: This guide is accurate to the best of our knowledge and is intended to give a rough overview of what considerations landlords should take into account before using Airbnb. The advice we give here is by no means comprehensive.