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When everyone has a home

028 9024 5640: Housing & Debt Helpline for Northern Ireland

Using AirBnB to provide accommodation

AirBnB is an online platform, which helps people, largely tourists, find suitable short-term accommodation. For many homeowners or tenants with  a spare room, AirBnB has been a welcome stream of additional income, introducing them to tourists who are willing to pay to spend a night or two in a local home. However, Northern Ireland is distinct in requiring that all providers of overnight guest accommodation be licensed by Tourism NI, the body responsible for certifiying tourist accommodation. Tourism NI has initiated legal action against two local AirBnB hosts, providing accommodation in Belfast and Cookstown.

Statutory inspection and certification of tourist premises

A person letting out rooms in their home on a short-term, holiday-letting basis will not be required to register as a landlord under the requirements of the Private Tenancies (NI) Order 2006.  This is because the definition of "tenancy" contained in the PTO specifically excludes any tenancy, the purpose of which is to occupy a property for a holiday. However, The Tourism (NI) Order 1992 requires the statutory inspection and certification of all tourist establishments. This Order additionally details eight categories of tourist accommodation, and some AirBnB hosts have argued that the type of accommodation they provide falls outside of the accommodation defined by the Order. However, it seems clear that certain categories of AirBnB accommodation (such as en-suite bedrooms, self-contained acccommodation, and accommodation offered on a bed and breakfast basis) must be inspected and certified. 

The cost of applying for certification depends on the nature of the accommodation and ranges from £40 to £2000. 

Other restrictions on short-term letting

Tenants or homeowners who own their property on a leasehold basis and who are interested in becoming an AirBnB host should also review the terms of their lease. Leases will commonly include a term requiring that the premises be treated only as a private residence and restricting the operation of any business from the premises. The Lands Chamber of the Upper Tribunal for England and Wales held that operating a short-term holiday letting service, such as that provided by AirBnB is unquestionably a breach of any covenant to only use a property as a private residence. This type of restriction would typically only apply if the whole of the property was let out, but it is key that any potential hosts do their homework and ensure that their AirBnB activities do not place them in breach of their lease.  

Should advisers be asked about the possibility of their clients maximising their incomes by using services such as AirBnb, it will be important to explain the both the need a review of the property lease and the requirement to apply for certification through Tourism NI. 



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