This is the fourth post in my Airbnb series. And maybe the most important. Because in this post I am going to talk about the legal obligations that you must comply with under the law.
It is so easy to set yourself up as a ‘host’ on Airbnb and rent out your house or room to ‘guests’ that many people completely forget about this – or more likely it will not occur to you in the first place.
However, if you do not comply with your legal obligations you can be prosecuted and fined. And your ‘guests’ may acquire rights you do not want over your property or be entitled to sue you for compensation. So best to get it right.
Different occupation types, different obligations
One of the reasons why I devoted the last post in this series to looking at occupation types, is that it affects the legal rights and obligations you have as landlord (or to use the Airbnb terminology, ‘host’.).
People often think it is all about whether someone has a license or a tenancy, but it is more complex than that.
Let’s take a look first however at
Legal Obligations which apply in all situations
Health and safety:
These will be the health and safety obligations. Probably the most important of these are the gas regulations – as gas can be a killer.
Everyone renting property, in any way, must get their property inspected every year by an engineer registered with the Gas Safe Register and obtain a certificate.
If you are renting out the whole property, the certificate must be provided to the occupiers. For rooms, and also for lets of less than 28 days, you need to display a copy of the certificate in a prominent place in the property. Foor example in the kitchen or hall.
You also need to comply with the various other safety regulations such as the furniture regs.
One way to prove that your electrical appliances are safe is to have them regularly tested under the PAT system (PAT stands for Portable Appliance Testing). There are companies which can do this and it is not too expensive.
There is some more information on electricity regulations and requirements here.
Housing Health and Safety Rating System
Note also that Local Authorities also have the right to carry out a ‘Housing Health and Safety Rating System survey’s’ on all properties (not just tenanted properties) and if they find that the properties have a ‘category one or two hazard’ they can require you to bring the property up to standard.
This is normally done by serving an improvement notice on you. If you fail to comply you can be prosecuted the Magistrates Court.
If you have a written agreement, you will also have to comply with any promises or obligations set out in your license, lodger or tenancy agreement. So if you buy a written agreement ‘off the shelf’ – read it first to see what it says.
Legal Obligations for lodger landlords
There is no particular legal code for landlords who rent property in their own home. It is mainly an absence of rules which apply in other situations.
Most important is the fact that you do not need to get a court order for possession if you are renting a room in your own home – provided you share living accommodation. And provided you do not use any violence.
If you are a lodger landlord, note that I have provided a lot of information for you on my Lodger Landlord website.
Licensees do not have the rights associated with tenants, but in most cases, they are entitled to be evicted through the courts.
This is set out in the Protection From Eviction Act 1977 which also sets out in section 3 the ‘excluded’ tenancy types where a court order is not needed. These include lodgers and holiday lets.
This means for example, that if you rent out rooms – in a genuine license situation – you will need to serve a proper ‘Notice to Quit’ if you want them to leave and then, if they don’t go, bring legal proceedings – which will require a different process from eviction proceedings for tenants.
All tenancies will be subject to the statutory repairing covenants set out in s11 onwards of the Landlord & Tenant Act 1985 (more on this here).
All tenants (unless they are excluded under s3 of the Protection from Eviction Act) will need to be evicted through the courts if they refuse to leave. Note that there are different procedures depending on whether the tenancy is an Assured Shorthold Tenancy or a common law /unregulated tenancy.
In most cases, you will need to provide tenants with a copy of a current Energy Performance Certificate.
Assured Shorthold Tenancies
If you take a deposit this needs to be protected in a government-authorised tenancy deposit scheme. You will find a lot of information about this on this website. It is only AST tenants deposits which need protecting.
Other things to consider
Are you a business?
If you are, or are treated as, renting property as a business, then various regulations which are there to protect consumers will also apply to you.
These will include the regulations regarding unfair terms in contracts (such as tenancy and license agreements) which are now part of the Consumer Rights Act 2015 and the other consumer laws I talk about here.
These will not normally apply to people renting rooms in their own home (although it can do), but otherwise, these rules will probably apply to you – so check.
Is your property an HMO?
I talked about HMO properties in the last two posts in this series. Whether not a property is an HMO depends on whether (in essence) more than two people who are not family are sharing living accommodation. It can apply to lodger situations.
If your property is an HMO you will (in ALL cases) be subject to the additional HMO Management Regulations (which are discussed here) and you may need to get an HMO license (even if you only rent to lodgers).
Right to Rent rules
This has been a long post. I have only written about things very briefly and almost certainly I have left some things out (tell me in the comments if you spot anything).
Advertising your property through Airbnb and using the words ‘host’ and ‘guests’ will not change any of this.
Ignorance of the law is no defence if you are unlucky enough to be prosecuted (although the Magistrates will be less harsh on you than on deliberate ‘rogue landlords’).
So if you are renting out a property or a room via Airbnb – be aware of these issues and try to comply with them. It’s safest – both for you and for your ‘guests’.
Note – If you are an Airbnb host looking to learn more about your legal rights and obligations – click here.