Airbnb is a website that enables people to list short term rental accommodation in residential properties. Use of this and other similar websites have become increasingly popular in Ireland.
A recent English case highlights that even if a lease does not restrict short term letting, permitting Airbnb style short term lettings might breach other lease terms. In that case the owner of an apartment in a purpose built apartment block was held to be in breach of her lease by advertising the availability of her apartment for short term lettings and granting a series of such lettings.
The lease contained a restriction on sub-letting in the last seven years of the term. With just over 80 years left to run on the lease this restriction did not apply at the time. However the owner was held to be in breach of her covenant to use the premises as "a private residence". It was decided that in order for a property to be used as the occupier's private residence there must be a degree of permanence going beyond being there for a weekend or a few nights in the week. The Court stated that whether other tenants with a similar covenant would be found to be in breach would depend on the construction of the particular covenant in its own factual context. This case highlights the importance of looking at all lease covenants and not just those relating to rights to sub-let.
The issue is clearly under the spotlight in Ireland too. Recent media reports indicate that residents of various apartment complexes are being advised that short term lets such as those offered on Airbnb are contrary to their leases; and the Planning Laws are also being employed. Recently An Bord Pleanála agreed with the Temple Bar Residents' Association that the use of an apartment at Crown Alley, Dublin 2 for Airbnb lettings required planning permission. In that particular instance the Board reasoned that because of the high turnover of visitors, the attendant security risk, support activities (such as cleaning staff) to service the lettings and lack of a resident host distinguished the apartment's use sufficiently from the residential use of the rest of the block and impacted sufficiently on the amenity of the other residents as to amount to "material change of use".