The rise of the short-term let: landlords taking lead from Airbnb

Void periods – the days, weeks or even months between one tenant moving out and another moving in – can be a landlord’s most dreaded expense, so growing numbers are turning to short-term, Airbnb-type lets to plug the gap.

The number of buy-to-let landlords who advertise properties on Airbnb increased by 54% between February 2016 and March 2017, according to the latest research from the Residential Landlord Association (RLA). The popular property and room letting platform saw a total of 5.9 million users on its UK site in 2016 and 2017 as more people opt for this style of short-term renting – which ranges from a room in a shared house to a whole property – over staying in a hotel because of the increased choice and flexibility available.

In London, the average rent for a one-bedroom flat, according to Zoopla, is £1,703, while the average rent for any sized rental property including houses across the UK is £926. Compare this to Airbnb’s average one-bed cost of around £100 a night and it becomes clear why more landlords are looking at this as a way of boosting their yield.

The property would only need to be occupied for just over half the month to achieve the same rental value as a London one-bed, while renting it out for the whole month could bring in as much as £3,000 at the average rate.

Filling empty properties

The increased flexibility of renting a buy-to-let property out for as little as one night at a time could enable many landlords to fill void periods until another long-term tenant is chosen, which would be a huge boost to the landlord’s income.

Hunters estate agents is planning to start offering some properties on a “super-short term” let basis through Airbnb, as well as and Expedia, after pairing up with rental specialist Lavanda, whose AGENT service lets landlords and sellers arrange short-term lets for empty properties that are awaiting sale or long-term rental agreement.

The minimum stay would be for two nights up to a maximum of 90, and Lavanda would offer furnishing, vetting, housekeeping and meet and greet services to Hunters’ customers as part of the agreement.

Glynis Frew, chief executive of Hunters Property, said: “We are delighted to be working in partnership with Lavanda and pioneering an innovative new service for customers that unlocks major value for our vendors and landlords. Today the service is live in Manchester and we are planning to roll it out to major cities nationwide over the course of the next 12 months.”

The dark side of short lets

If not properly managed, these types of short-term lets can cause problems, especially for existing residents in blocks of flats. Where people are using it very regularly as a form of income, the constant changeovers of guests can be a nuisance and some places don’t have the facilities, such as concierges, to deal with them. Some are calling for registration of short-term lets and a 90-day per year limit – which already exists on whole property Airbnb lets in London.

Karen Vuck, MP for Westminster North, said: “In blocks of flats, long-term residents find themselves living in a hotel but without the services to support it, like staff and security. They have to deal with constant comings and goings, security concerns, noise, rubbish. These properties turn over every few days so you feel you aren’t living in a residential community.

“The original concept of Airbnb was you rent your flat out when you’re away or your spare room. That still happens and that’s absolutely fine. But what’s also happened is professional landlords have moved in, who in many cases own multiple properties.”

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