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Is Airbnb in London Legal?

Over the past several years, Airbnb has become a force to be reckoned with in terms of short term lodging for travellers. Unfortunately, it has created quite a stir in some sectors of the population with those who are adamantly opposed to allowing these homes to be let, or sublet, for short periods of time. In fact, most of the London Airbnb laws are so confusing that it’s almost impossible to answer the often asked question, “Is Airbnb legal in London?”


Then there are those who have openly stated that they rely on the income from Airbnb having lost their jobs in the covid-19 pandemic. Many workers have yet to find new employment and raise money by letting rooms or even their entire home to Airbnb tenants. In order to better answer that question, if not totally, at least in part, here at UpperKey we take a closer look at London Airbnb rules. Actually, let’s start with a bit of history!


row of brick houses in London
UpperKey looks into how Airbnb works in London

An Idea Born in Desperation Becomes a Multibillion Dollar Enterprise

The year is 2007 and the place is San Francisco, California. Two roommates were finding it difficult, and often impossible, to pay their monthly rent. Brian Chesky and Joe Bebbia were living in a rented apartment that really was beyond their means, even though they shared equally in the bills. With an upcoming designer’s conference to be held in the city, hotel rooms were a scarce commodity.


An idea struck Joe Bebbia who emailed his roommate with an idea that was about to make history. Bebbia said that they should turn their loft into a rather modernized kind of bed and breakfast as a way to pick up a few bucks they could use toward the rent. They were so successful that they decided to continue advertising their loft as a short-term vacation rental in the heart of San Francisco. With this being one of the most prominent tourist destinations in the state, they were sure travellers would want to snatch up a cheaper place to stay with less noise and hubbub. They were right and that was the humble beginnings of a business now worth billions.


The Concept Became an International Bestseller

That was exactly 15 years ago and today it is one of the most sought-after holiday accommodation options in the world. If there are any nations that have totally outlawed Airbnb, they are few and far between. However, even though Airbnb is not illegal in the UK, Airbnb laws London has on the books don’t actually make it easy, or sometimes even legal, to let out part or all of one’s home or apartment.


With that said, many apartment dwellers and homeowners seem to be ‘bending’ the laws to suit their purposes. Like so many others who either lost their jobs or a great deal of their income for a two year period of time during the pandemic, they are letting out Airbnb accommodation seemingly in violation of Airbnb London legal conditions. But are they? It could be that they fall between the cracks when you look closer at what they are doing.


The Most Understandable Airbnb Laws London Posted

Okay then, the most understandable law on the books is that no homeowner can let out their house to Airbnb patrons for more than 90 days in a calendar year. However, even though that seems to be rather cut and dry, is it really? While there are literally thousands of B&B establishments in the UK that have no such regulations, why is Airbnb different? Isn’t it much like a bed and breakfast where you are renting out rooms in your home and offering breakfast as a perk?


Perhaps the issue is how your home is registered. If you register your home as a B&B, then it doesn’t seem as though there are any restrictions on the number of nights you let out those rooms! However, and here is the big case in point, when you are letting out rooms for a B&B, you are renting out rooms and perhaps a common sitting area where guests can watch a bit of telly or access the internet. So then, the law stipulates that they can’t rent out 2/3 or more of the house as an Airbnb for more than 90 days. That makes sense. It would no longer be akin to a B&B but rather more like subletting the home.


Speaking of Subletting…

Here is another case in point that should be investigated. If you are ‘subletting’ your flat then you may be in violation of your lease agreement. That would, in turn, give your landlord grounds to evict you. With that said, anyone seeking to understand the 90-day Airbnb regulation London has in effect, you would need to know that you either need to own your home/flat or have written permission from your landlord to rent out rooms via Airbnb.


Then there are mortgage loans that may be affected by letting out rooms to Airbnb travellers. If you’ve taken on any kind of mortgage written for a primary residence and with the stipulation not to be rented out during the term of the loan, you could be in violation of that as well. So then, be aware of the fact that Airbnb laws London has in effect may not be the only laws or rules you would be in violation of.


To enter into anything other than a provision stipulated in your mortgage loan agreement would put you in violation. It might then be possible for your mortgage lender to call the note due or begin proceedings to take back the property. Remember, in a mortgage loan the property is the collateral and you could stand to lose it if you violate the terms of the contract!


Getting Around the Legalities

The one way to ensure that you are well within the Airbnb regulation London has legislated, you would do well to consider that it appears to only be a violation if you let out 2/3 or more of your home for more than 90 days in a calendar year. It doesn’t appear to be an issue if you are simply letting out a room on an Airbnb basis.


Even so, it may also be in violation of a lender’s contract if you have your flat or home mortgaged. At this point, even if you are only letting out a single room as an Airbnb accommodation it would be well worth your while to fully read your loan contract to be sure you aren’t going to be in default. If you still have trouble deciphering the legal terminology in the paperwork, hire a solicitor for legal counsel. It cannot be stressed enough that staying within the confines of the law is your obligation. Ignorance of the law is no excuse.


It's Really All About That Income, Isn’t It?

Sadly, many people rely on that extra income which is why you will also be searching for answers when querying Google with questions like, “Airbnb how much can I make London rates at this time?” It really is all about the money and how much you can make at this time when you really, really need that income. You would think that with everything the world has gone through for the past two-and-a-half years that regulations would be relaxed a bit, but unfortunately that isn’t the case.


The very best suggestion at this time would be to consider only letting out a single room or two but make sure it constitutes less than 2/3 of the home. That falls rather in a grey area where the laws aren’t quite as concrete so you would probably do well that way. In any event, letting out a couple bedrooms may even be more profitable than letting out 2/3 of the home!


laptop computer with a white backrgound and red airbnb logo
Airbnb is not going anywhere in the near future. How will the City of London adapt to Airbnb?

Airbnb Is Going Nowhere

While there will probably always be business professionals who are on an expense account who would rather stay in a grand hotel, those are not as many as in the past. With teleconferences and all the advances in telecommunication, fewer business professionals are travelling than ever before. Even so, many corporations with a presence in London do prefer Airbnb accommodation because they make use of them often, saving a small fortune in the process.


The tenants you are likely to get with an Airbnb letting would most likely be private travellers on holiday or in the UK to visit friends and family. You may even find parents of students who attend London colleges looking for Airbnb accommodation. Here again, these are unlikely to want to pay the huge costs of 4-star hotels and would most likely feel more comfortable in a family setting.


If you have any reservations about letting out rooms within your home, you may want to check with Airbnb itself or to read information on the internet that tells you how to rent Airbnb accommodation.


In fact, it is always advisable to ask for personal references before letting out a room in your home. If you would rather let someone else handle the management side of things, you can also look at professional property management services like UpperKey. Also, you would do well to get insurance to cover any ways in which you could be held liable if someone staying as an Airbnb guest were to get hurt on the property.


There is much to be considered but let’s leave you with this fact: Airbnb isn’t going anywhere and there really is money to be made. Those laws sound scarier than they really are, so if you’ve your mind made up to be an Airbnb host, it’s probably time to do just that.