An Airbnb host who rented out his council flat in central London has been fined £100,000 and evicted by Westminster City Council
The flat, located in Victoria, had been advertised since 2013 and received more than 300 reviews, according to the council, which used anti-fraud software to discover the council tenant, Toby Harman, featured in reviews, enabling the local authority to connect the listing to him.
Harman, 37, created a fake identity, referring to himself as ‘Lara’ on Airbnb, in order to rent out his studio apartment over a five-year period.
Harman was taken to court and, after a failed appeal, evicted and ordered to pay £100,974 in unlawful profits.
The council property listing was removed from Airbnb earlier this year.
A spokesperson for the website told BBC News: “We regularly remind hosts to check and follow local rules - including on subsidised housing - and we take action on issues brought to our attention," said a spokeswoman.
“Airbnb is the only platform that works with London to limit how often hosts can share their space and we support proposals from the mayor of London for a registration system to help local authorities regulate short-term lets and ensure rules are applied equally to hosts on all platforms in the capital."
Westminster Council said it was currently investigating at least 1,500 properties in the borough for short-term letting.
The council's Andrew Smith commented: “Social housing is there to provide much-needed homes for our residents, not to generate illicit profits for dishonest tenants," the council's Andrew Smith said.
“It's illegal for council tenants to sublet their homes and we carry out tenancy checks, as well as monitoring short-term letting websites for any potential illegal sublets.
“We're also pressing government to introduce a national registration scheme to make it far easier for us to take action against anyone who breaks the rules on short-term letting.”