Planning to Lease Your Property on AirBnb? Here Are Some Things You Need to Make Sure Of
AirBnB is rapidly transforming the real estate and hospitality industries and changing the way that many of us look for a place to stay when we’re going on holiday. Actually scratch that, AirBnB has already transformed those industries and for most of us, AirBnB is the first port of call when we start planning our holiday. Traditional ‘old school’ hotel companies are rightly afraid, but many speculators believe that this kind of ‘sharing economy’ represents the future of the way that we will do business across all industries.
And it’s not just holiday-makers who stand to benefit from the unique features of AirBnB either. More impressive are the opportunities that this opens up for property owners and anyone looking to make more money from a room, a spare apartment, a holiday home or even a shed in their back garden.
But before those dollar signs start rotating in front of your eyes, first stop and think about the legalities. Are you actually entitled to lease your property through AirBnB? What responsibilities will you be opening yourself up to?
Read on and we’ll take a look at some critical legalities and practical pointers that you need to take care of first.
The first thing to question before you go ahead and lease out your property, is whether you legally own the property in the first place!
If you live in a block of apartments and you rent your property from a landlord, then that means that you do not own the property. It might be your home, but it is not your real estate. Thus, letting the apartment to someone else through AirBnB or a similar service would actually be breaking the law. This is called ‘subletting’ and it is an offense that can get you swiftly evicted.
This is understandable: after all, the property still belongs to someone else and it is only right that they should have the option to vet anyone that will be living there – even just for a short amount of time. Not only this, but if someone were to move into the property and then cause damage, you might find that you are then liable for that damage.
This is an obvious example though. In some cases, it might be less clear cut as to whether or not you actually own your property. For example, if you have a joint ownership, then you might need the permission of the other title holders. Likewise, if you are on a ‘rent to buy’ scheme or similar, then you will need to make absolutely certain that the property is considered yours in this context.
If you don’t own the property? Then of course you can always try discussing the option with your landlord in order to see if they might be persuaded. If they give you the green light, then you’re free to go ahead. Though there’s a good chance they’ll want their cut!
It’s still not time to get carried away just yet.
Because actually, the legality of AirBnB on a whole varies a lot depending on where you are located. Is your property situated in New York? Then in this scenario, for example, you might actually be unable to use AirBnB the way you had planned regardless of your status as owner.
While there are over 16,000 listings for properties on AirBnB in the New York area, legislation now ensures that New York property owners are only permitted to lease their property for 30 days or less. And they can only do this if they are currently residing at the property. In other words, you can’t lease out your holiday home and you can’t lease out your bedroom for more than a month…
This legislation was introduced in response to the discovery that 75% of rentals in the city were illegal with property owners avoiding millions of dollars a year in property taxes. Similar rules are in place in San Francisco and Santa Monica – so do your research before you commit.
Similarly, you should also look into the bylaws of your local community. Even if the city you’re living in is AirBnB friendly, the local neighborhood might not be. Many areas discourage leasing and it’s just the neighborly thing to do to discuss your plans with those that might be affected.
The last point brings us nicely to the subject of tax. Hotel taxes have been around since the dawn of the hospitality industry and it’s the price that hosts are required to pay local governments. You didn’t really think that you’d be able to avoid those costs, just because you don’t run a business?
Discussing whether this is right or not is opening an entire pot of worms and likely depends on your political views. But suffice to say that if you plan on using AirBnB, you should contact the CPA and local Chamber of Commerce to request the tax code in your area. If there isn’t a code then you’re good to go, otherwise, you need to make sure you’re paying your dues.
Finally, it’s important to consider whether or not your property is safe and suitable for tenants. If you’re going to become a host, then that means that the well being of your guests is going to be your responsibility. If someone should slip and fall in your property because of a puddle on the floor caused by a leak, or if someone should hurt themselves on a piece of glass located too low for regulations, then you can find yourself on the wrong side of a lawsuit.
Taking out insurance is one way to protect yourself from this – and this is something that every business should always be sure to do. At the same time though, do some research into health and safety laws and use a little common sense to look for things that might be dangerous or that could cause injury. It is not only a legal imperative, but also a moral one.