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Westminster City Council awarded £100K over AirBnB fraud

Words: Huw Morris

An AirBnB host who rented out his Westminster City Council home to tourists has been fined £100,000 and evicted.

Toby Harman had created a fake identity to illegally sublet the property in Victoria, which had been advertised since 2013 and received more than 300 reviews.

The council’s corporate anti-fraud service found some of the reviews mentioned the tenant by his name, thanking him for his advice and local restaurant recommendations. Bank statements also proved he had been receiving payments from Airbnb for a number of years.

Westminster has a specialist council team set up to tackle abuses of short-term lettings and more than 1,500 properties are under investigation. It is calling on the government to introduce a compulsory cross-platform registration scheme for property owners, so councils know what properties are being short term let and for how long.

“Social housing is there to provide much-needed homes for our residents, not to generate illicit profits for dishonest tenants,” said cabinet member for housing services Andrew Smith. “Along with a six-figure unlawful profit order by getting a possession order, we can now reallocate the property to someone in genuine need of a home.”

Last year, Westminster successfully recovered 24 social housing properties from fraudsters.

Image credit | iStock