Landlords Get Tough on Subletting

Last Updated: March 27, 2014By Tags: , , ,

KeysSeduced by the promise of extra income — a $100 or so a night in many cases — tenants across the country are looking to vacation rental service Airbnb to turn their apartments into profit centers through temporary sublets.

The most active markets are in major cities, including those with rent limits. In some cases, rent-controlled tenants are making more money than the landlord is legally allowed to charge.

Some call it ingenuity. But others, including property owners and managers, say it’s illegal.

As the practice grows in popularity, landlords are fighting back. For instance, in a recent report from San Francisco, a tenant who was earning $185 a night by taking in temporary boarders just got the boot. An eviction attorney says he’s filed about a dozen of these cases in the last few months, according to the report.

In New York, a landlord was slapped with fines when a tenant’s sublet violated the ban on short-term lodging.  The landlord deferred the eviction when the tenant agreed to pay the penalties and to stop renting out the spare bedroom.

Airbnb offers a turnkey service allowing visitors to search online listings for extra rooms or even empty couches in large cities around the world. Sublets in San Francisco alone are estimated in the thousands, according to the report.

Despite negative publicity,  the problem doesn’t seem to be going away.

If a lease agreement prohibits sublets, or short-term rentals violate local law, a landlord may have grounds to file an eviction. However, in some cases there is no built-in remedy for landlords against tenants who are exploiting a lease for profit.

And, some tenants won’t leave quietly. One tenant attorney told reporters that landlords are using the Airbnb situation as a “false pretense” to get rid of rent-controlled tenants. He negotiates lease buy-outs on behalf of tenants in cases where an eviction may be costly and protracted.

Airbnb says its policies discourage anyone from breaking the lease, or the law.

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