How do You Know Your Tenant Is Subletting with AirBNB?

2015-02-07

How do You Know Your Tenant Is Subletting with AirBNB?

It’s hard enough when you’re screening the actual tenants — having complete strangers on your property is a straight-up no-go.

A coffee mug with the word 'AirBNB' written in cream.AirBNB, and similar services like VRBO and wimdu, allow someone to rent out a property they control by the night. This is great for homeowners looking to get some extra income while they’re on vacation, but it’s a huge pain in the butt for property managers. Even though almost every lease agreement in the country specifies that a rental property may not be used for subletting, it’s becoming an increasingly common problem across the country.

Discovering the Sublet
It’s difficult to know if one of your tenants is subletting through a service like AirBNB or VRBO. These sites don’t list their property by address, so you can’t just type in your property addresses into a search bar and see whether or not they’re listed, or set up any type of Google Alert. Instead, you name an area and get a vague map of roughly where the options are — not enough to nail it down as one of your properties. And while the sites require a host’s name, there’s no guarantee that your tenant will put their name down in that field.

The easiest way to discover a tenant that’s illegally subletting is by talking to the neighbors. We already keep neighbors in the loop, asking them to report any suspicious activity to us. Asking them to call in if they see a lot of different people coming in and out, especially later at night, isn’t a big deal to them — we do offer a modest reward if any actual issue is uncovered through one of their tips. With their help, it’s much easier to know when and where to look for evidence of subletting.

[Edit 2/24/17] The modern landlord might also find a variety of useful tools online. For example, we recently discovered SubletAlert.com, which monitors AirBNB daily, looking for any posts referencing any addresses on its list. It’s much easier than talking to the neighbors.

If You Find a Tenant Subletting
The laws surrounding subletting are currently in a little bit of flux. It’s completely certain that it’s a violation of your lease agreement, which means you can commence eviction proceedings the moment you have proof that it’s happening. But a recent New York State court case has called into question whether or not the offense of subletting is ‘curable.’ In other words, if the tenant stops and agrees not to start again, can they claim the problem has been taken care of and thus avoid eviction?

The judge in the New York case decided that illegal subletting was curable — meaning that there’s no real long-term consequence to getting caught unless you’ve already been caught doing it once before. That law currently only applies in New York, but it did set a precedent that courts in the rest of the country are able to look to should the issue come up on their docket. That said, eviction is your best option — even if it doesn’t work the first time, you at least can be confident that if it crops up again, it’s the last time you’ll have to deal with it…at least, with this tenant.

Why It Matters
Some of you may be asking, “So what? They’re subletting, who cares?” The answer is that most landlord insurance policies specifically do not apply to residences that are being sublet — so if, for example, one of those sublet-ees manages to break their ankle in your shower and sue you, your insurance company will reply with ‘sorry, your insurance policy doesn’t actually exist because of the subletting, good luck with that, goodbye.’ Suddenly, you’re on the hook for the medical bills of some complete stranger that you don’t have any kind of a contract with, and no insurance to help pay them. Definitely not a situation you want to end up in.
If you have a clue that a tenant might be subletting on one of your properties, don’t hesitate — get to the bottom of it immediately. It’s not a circumstance that any landlord should be any part of.

40 thoughts on “How do You Know Your Tenant Is Subletting with AirBNB?

  1. well, when the nearly last line says, “sorry, you are on the hook for a major medical issue…” it has me thinking there might be some good reason to be in touch with the neighbors of my rentals. Thanks. This article is scary and helpful.

  2. I have a tenant that is subletting her apartment through Airbnb rentals in violation of the rental lease that she signed with me. The activity is disruptive, loud and poses a danger to the women and children residing in the apartment complex. Tenants are not permitted to sublet. This is the second time that she has done this. I warned her the first time and she said that she would not do it again (in an email). I went onto Airbnb and can see that she has the apartment booked for most of the next month and a half. All of the neighbors in the complex are complaining. I plan to serve a 3 day quit notice for non-compliance with the terms of the lease. Her email and phone are disconnected and she no longer seems to reside there – only rents it out. I have no way of contacting her other than posting a notice. I called Airbnb and they won’t help at all. It will probably take 45 days in total as well as a few thousand dollars to get her out.

    1. David, it sounds as though you need to take action to evict this tenant. Check with your attorney if there’s any way you can change the locks to stop the subletting if she’s not living there.

  3. Bunch of old people afraid of the future. Having complete strangers on your property is a no go? You know people have guests in their home? Under this philosophy having sex would become illegal.

    Young people are just waiting for all of you to die. Take your religion with you too please.

    1. Another millennial with no money or goals in sight for the future trolling to be heard by someone other than their coddling mom.

    2. You do know that young people become old too and sooner than you think. Some die even not reaching an old age. What a troll.

  4. I wonder whether a property owner has notified AirBnb that if they continue to list the property their customers will be charged with trespassing. Since subletting is not allowed by the terms of the lease, the AirBnb people have no legal basis to occupy the premises. Would think that AirBnb would want to avoid that sort of bad press.

    1. It is possible, but do you really want to punish the person who is a guest. I lost $4k after I discovered my air bnb was illegal, and Air BNB encouraged me to go into hotels, and after I did they refused to follow through on their promise to reimburse me. I had to leave my prestigious job and school. J/S…something to think about before bum rushing your a-hole tenant. No they should not be illegally renting, but think about the guest and hopefully come up with a solution that does not kick them out in the cold. But yeah, your tenant should be kicked out for lying, imho…just do it humanely.

    2. The guests aren’t trespassing. They have a sublet from the person who controls the property. You’d have to have their sublet invalidated before it’s trespassing

    1. Who does the $1M liability insurance cover? An owner that was unaware their unit was being sublet? Where’s AirBNB’s guarantee that they’ll cover this?

    2. Air BNB is full of it. They never help anyone, and if you have the ability to pull some strings to get my $4k back, please do pull some…or sit down.

  5. I’d evict her just to get it on her rental record. I’m in my last few days of renting a place from someone through Airbnb and when I made the reservation, I thought I was going to be in someone’s cool condo. Instead when I showed up to get the keys, I was told I probably shouldn’t mention to anyone that I’m renting here. So I’ve had to avoid the management staff, and had a constant concern someone would enter my unit. When I leave, I’m turning my keys into management and letting them know about the situation. There’s only one way to teach these people to follow the rules and that’s through some serious pain.

  6. There’s also services such as https://www.stopbnb.com/ for landlords to help them detect tenants who are subleasing short-term. They monitor multiple sites (AirBnB, VRBO etc) you should check them out if you’re a concerned property owner.

  7. I speculating that my dad’s tenant might be a prostitute. We have a kid present in our house, he 2 years old, but I have spotted random strangers every night come in and go after out earning morning. Each individual is different like 6 different men show up and go. I continue to spy most of the time light are out. I notice her doing this often like every Wensday thur Thursday night. She is usually off both days. I’m not particularly sure if she have sex with these random strangers.I’m afraid that I might be wrong and fear for my nephew sake.How can I make sure what going on is not what i expect?

  8. I am amazed how all the landlords make a big deal out Airbnb. The tenant is there in the House or apartment while the vacationers are there for 1 to 3 nights or so. The tenant is there at all times and is overlooking everything and keeping everything clean and tidy. Airbnb has $1,000.000.00 in insurance so if anyone hurts themselves Airbnbn pays if they make a claim even. It’s no different than having friends over for a week-end… or having someone Host/Exchange student from another country. No one complains about that when you take exchange students in your home!!!! Some of those people get paid to have the exchange students. I think a big deal is being made when someone is trying to make a little money to supplement their income. Some one had a surgery and was out for 4 months from work and if it would not have been for renting out her other bedroom Airbnb she could not have paid her rent. Let it go. You are getting your rent … be happy…

    1. An owner/landlord/agent should be able to control what is going on with their property — period. This is really no different than a tenant getting a pet or moving in additional people.

      Also, most leases have a clause allowing a tenant to have TEMPORARY visitors, typically for no more than 15 consecutive days. The whole point of the clause is to control who is living in the property. Having numerous people staying, but trying to claim that none of them stay for more than 3-4 days at a time is realistically breaking that clause.

    2. I’m surprised how ppl don’t care that Air BNB doesn’t care when stuff goes wrong. If you are so pro-air bnb, go read some air bnb hell stories. I hope you never have to go through a situation yourself, but I have lost thousands of dollars due to air bnb bull. It is different when you experience it for yourself. Ppl need to make an honest living…even if it is scrubbing toilets. An illegal air bnb can throw innocent guests out into the streets, and the customer service reps really do not care what happens half way across the world.

  9. I have a tenant who is boldly subletting and proud of it. He even has his poto & images of my house on the site. I started eviction on him and he has a court date with the city, as a rental license is required for anyone charging rent. But he is still accepting reservations. His take is that the lease does not say no subletting. It does say only family and friends can reside there for no more than 15 consecutive days. So, in his head, these are all friends & family. Do you charge your family $39 per night to spend the night? How can I speed up the process of getting him out?

    1. Lesson Learned: please add a “No Subleasing” clause to your lease. As to speeding the process up, you have to follow the laws of your state — and also be careful of attracting additional scrutiny to yourself. Cities like to hold landlords responsible, and fine them accordingly, for things that are realistically outside a landlord’s control.

  10. So many people who are AirbnB “hosts” and offer full unit rentals do not even own the units they are subleasing out. This is a huge problem in Los Angeles because they are taking so many units off the housing market and are basically absentee landlords as well (in addition to violating the terms of their leases for subleasing). I rent an apartment and live next to one of these hotel rooms and it is horrible. I have complained multiple times to Airbnb and they don’t care. I have reported it to my landlord and hoping this solves the problem. It’s one thing if guests are staying with hosts in their primary residence, but when people are renting out then illegally subleasing dozens of units and across the country (yes I there is someone I know who’s family member does this) it is a problem.

    1. If you can’t get action from the owner of the property or AirBNB, try contacting your local Building/Rental Department. Just be sure to document what’s going on as best as possible. Then may then send a warning to the unit owner and maybe issue a ticket.

  11. Regarding hosting your landlords property on Airbnb, I complained to Airbnb also. They are a human-less cyber company. The could care less about your complaints. Nonetheless, I did turn my tenant in to the city who ordered him to stop renting, & was assessed a large fine. I asked if it was O.K. for me to operate my property as a hotel & the city said no. My next question was then why can my tenant? He has stopped. Now I do searches on all of the sites that offer subletting. My best advice to landlords is when you catch someone hosting, make screen shots of the hosting site. It’s really hard for them to deny it is then when they have their photo, images of the house, customer reviews, etc. shown to them from their site.

  12. I live in LA and AirbnB is a HUGE HUGE problem here. Comment #17 from JD is right on. There are too many people taking rental housing units off the market and then subleasing them on Airbnb pretending they own them to their “guest”. I know of at least 2 people who are doing this and have properties across the country. It is raising our rents by taking available units off the market and lowering the quality of living here. I live next to a unit that is being Airbnbed and it is HORRIBLE! There are constantly people in and out, who stay here with a different mentality that those of us who actually live here. They party more, are messier in common areas, they are not as friendly as a neighbor would be, don’t know where to put the trash, how to unlock the door, which parking spot is theirs….it goes on and on. I have contacted Airbnb multiple times and they don’t care. I have reported the issue to both my landlord and the LA rent control housing…One solution to this would be give rent control ONLY to those who are financially in need of it AND only one apartment per person. Also, maybe there should be more hotels that are simply 100% Airbnb units. No check in desk, simple amenities, cleaning for an extra fee… SERIOUSLY – this is to those of you who are or have been Airbnb guests staying in entire units in multiunit dwellings – although the residents in the building didn’t tell you to your face – they probably knew you were Airbnbing and were annoyed as sh*t with you just for being there!!!!

    1. @CantStandIT: thanks for sharing your experience.

      Doubt there’s a solution to the problem that will satisfy all parties.

      Airbnb is just providing a platform for commerce between “supply (hosts with space to rent) & demand (guests needing a place to stay)”. It’s no different than eBay or Craigslist. We can’t see any logical way to hold them accountable for bad behavior by hosts and guests.

      Guests do need to behave, even better than they would at a hotel. Now stating that is INFINITELY easier than making it happen:( We’re sure hotel workers could share many interesting tales of guests behaving badly! The challenge is that unless they do something illegal they can be arrested for, it’s almost impossible to curb their bad behavior:(

      Hosts seem to be the ones that could be held most accountable. They are flirting with local landlord legal requirements, are directly responsible for how their guests affect neighbors, etc. If you want to apply pressure somewhere to effect change, than this is where it makes the most sense to focus.

  13. What about a coop. Here, the person in each apt. is actually its part owner since that person owns shares in the corporation. So can the coop dictate to the tenant what to do especially since that person is in fact an owner as well. I own my apt. live there with my wife and 2 kids. We need this extra income. AirBnb refers to the people who stay in my apt. as “guests” and I feel that way as well. It is not subletting since there is no such contract. These gyuests pay a guest fee, not a subletting fee. So do you consider this to be subletting or not?

    1. Thanks for posting. Why don’t you subtly ask your neighbors if they know of anyone in the building doing AirBnB and we’re sure you’ll also get their opinion about it. That should give you a decent idea into how the Coop Board would address the issue, since every owner gets a vote. We’re going to make an educated guess that the majority of the owners in the building would be against this as they would feel nothing good would come of it, only potential negatives – loud parties, messy and/or rude “guests”, etc.

      Ultimately, check your coop bylaws and rules and see what it states about guests.

    1. May we ask you to clarify if you are looking to speak with a landlord that had a tenant sublet their rental unit, or the tenant that did the subletting?

  14. We live in a nice apt complex. A neighbor was subletting AirBNB against the lease and had a typo in his instructions to the guests and directed them to our apt instead of his. We were out of the country, and maintenance had worked on our locks and left the door unlocked. The 3 guests entered and stayed, with access to checkbook, credit cards, laptop, jlwry, bags, etc. The Landlord served him a 3 day subletting notice, but he continued to sublet on AirBNB. Despite complaints, the Landlord said they couldn’t evict the tenant on complaints without concrete evidence. A 2nd incident occurred involving 3 rowdy drunken young guests who cat called and trespassed onto a young lady’s patio. This time the Landlord gave him a 3 day notice for disturbance. 2 notices of the same offense are required for an eviction. He had two notices for different offenses. Because the Landlord refused to be pro-active in enforcing the lease, and this had become a serious security problem, not to mention quite frightening, we were forced to use our own resources to provide concrete evidence so the tenant would be evicted. When we applied for the apt, we were required to go through a background check. Air BNB subletting allows unscreened and unregistered guests, good and bad, to roam our halls. I’ve stayed in some great Air BNB’s, but I don’t like living next to one – especially when they’re operating against the lease and state law and can’t type!

  15. Thanks for your advice, turning neighbors into allies and providing incentives is a great idea. Another company that provides STR monitoring services on popular sites such as Airbnb is leaseabuse.com, they use a combination of software and human researchers, which makes it interesting.

  16. It’s interesting how the owners/landlords/agents and people supporting the perspectives here in these comments seem to be implying a frustration of lost revenue under the guise of the tenent’s use of Airbnb being considered “unsafe,” or “unacceptable” because of arbitrary lease agreements. I say “arbitrary” because many clauses seem to based on personal whim rather than any reason or system. Using Airbnb is no different in practice than letting guests stay at your home. A great example, I am a very sharing and open person who lets complete strangers spend a night at my home (which I rent) very occasionally. On a weekly basis there is a different stranger crashing on my couch just out of the compassion I have to help other people out. I regularly allow a different homeless person each week to spend a night to get off of the streets, and who I take in is usually based off of one good 2-3 min conversation. Other than that, they are complete strangers. My behavior is completely in line with my lease (and many general leases as well). What’s even more interesting, my behavior in this example (and how it impacts my community) wouldn’t even be distinguished differently than if I was using Airbnb! Furthermore, Airbnb would most likely be considered even safer. There are certain types of vetting with Airbnb as well as the insurance policy, as was already stated in the comments on this webpage. Where the difference lies, is money exchanging hands. As stated in the beginning, It seems implied here that the landlords/owners/agents are bitter on missing out on any dollar they can’t get there hands on and will use whatever reason they can to support their money hoarding efforts, when the tenent should be able to reasonably generate income as well from there efforts especially when they still incur some sort of liability just by their name being on the lease. Some more food for thought, a close friend of mine is an owner/landlord who tells his tenents to live their lives how they see fit and the security deposit/further civil dispute will be used to handle any issues. Complaints will be handled in an effort to allow parties involved to continue in a reasonably similar manner. Something else he said to me, “I don’t care how many people live on the rental property or come and go, if you pay what you supposed to on time, stay accountable assume responsibility for the use of the property, and as long as it is reasonably similar to as you moved out, we’re going to have no issues.” That’s a pretty reasonable and agreeable way to come together as reasponsible adults engaging in (what most think should be) a mutually beneficial agreement, is it not? If we had more landlords in this world that engaged with their tenents like this, I think that be a wonderful thing. Food for thought.

    1. A very well thought out response.

      Yet it doesn’t address several issues:
      1) Many cities have limits on the number of people that can occupy a rental property.
      2) Many cities have restrictions on leases to avoid a single-family rental property from being operated with short-term leases — like a hotel.
      3) The government program Section 8, requires their rent subsidized participants to disclose all parties living in the home and furthermore requires all sources of income to be disclosed.

      The last one is the most interesting in the context of your argument. What would be your response regarding a government subsidized tenant hiding income from their AirBnB efforts, knowing that your tax dollars were subsidizing the rent for this Section 8 tenant?

  17. I moved out of LA – a city I am from and grew up in – partially because of the astronomical price of housing. It saddened me to leave, but I know from first hand experience AirBnB is a HUGE problem. I lived in an apartment complex where about 1/3 of the units were illegal short term rentals. I reported it to everyone – city, Airbnb, my landlord, etc and no one could do anything about it or cared to. Living next to one of these rentals is crappy – I won’t go into the details, but there is an ENORMOUS problem with people renting apartments and subleasing them on these short term rental sites. Most of the rentals on Airbnb are subleased units and many people have multiple or dozens of apartments they do this with. The area I moved to – a few hours outside of LA – has people who moved out of LA because they couldn’t afford it and KEPT their apartment in LA to Airbnb!! Contributing the problem – it is absolutely ABSURD – and I hope that something is done SOON.

  18. This article is a bunch of bollocks and BS and hold no valid argument whatsoever. Let me preference that I have a background in Urban Planning and Policy, and specifically focus on the history of planning. Throughout human history people have boarded/housed one another, this include subletting and BnB type places. Originally, in the West, land owners prized tenants that were innovative and brought more “activity” to their land, which meant the tenant could A) be relied upon to pay their rent; B) Makes for rental increase that much easier; C) add surety. Of course, this is not the 1600s, 1700s, 0r even 1800s, and some things, but mostly not, have changed. The major issue with services like Airbnb comes down to neighbors or other landowners who think it is their right to exert influence or their own property rights onto others, even other property owners and fail to realize that their property stops – as well should their opinions and the like – at the property line. As for the matter of insurance, a shady industry to begin with, one only needs a simple renter’s insurance policy and or business insurance policy to cover Airbnb like services, just the same as having a home office or home based business whereby clients and or guests visit your home for business purposes.

    On the more positive side, services like Uber and Airbnb actually perform a great service to communities; they bring in dollars and activity which would otherwise not be there or remotely be considered. For example, if you host an Airbnb in a inner ring Suburb, tourist and visitors would have generally spent their money in a city center and stayed in a centralized hotel far away from the location. However, with the advent of Airbnb and like services, many communities are seeing capital come back to Main Street and thus reaching small and local businesses.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.