The UK has always been one of the most popular destinations for tourists. According to Visit Britain, last year we received somewhere in the region of 37.6 million visitors from overseas, and that doesn’t count the increasing popularity of staycations. Unfavourable exchange rates and the huge diversity on offer around Britain’s coast, countryside and cities means more and more people are choosing to explore their own country rather than venturing further afield.
The rising worldwide phenomenon of Airbnb has seen homeowners take advantage of this tourism boom by offering their spare room or entire home to tourists as a cheaper or more relaxed alternative to hotels. If you’re planning an extended trip or have a spare room, offering your home on Airbnb or other similar sites can be a very effective way to boost your income. The UK government allows homeowners to earn up to £7,500 tax-free from letting a spare room, although this doesn’t apply if you’re letting your whole home.
Before you go listing your home on Airbnb, you need to be aware of the risks involved and what is and isn’t covered by the site, how it affects your home insurance, and if you will need to get dedicated insurance for Airbnb hosts.
What is Airbnb?
Airbnb is a site that matches travellers with places to stay in their destination. As a homeowner – or ‘host’ – you list your spare room or entire property on the site and interested parties – guests – contact you to arrange letting it from you. You can see reviews of prospective letters from previous properties where the guests stayed and they can see reviews hosts have received from guests who’ve stayed there previously. Airbnb makes money by charging both you and your guest a fee.
Am I covered by my home insurance?
Does your home buildings and contents insurance cover you for Airbnb? The answer here is almost certainly no. There have been certain horror stories in the press about guests destroying properties with wild parties or stealing valuable items (an £8,000 Banksy print, in one case). Rest assured that these occurrences are overwhelmingly in the minority, but it’s still wise to be protected.
If you don’t disclose to your insurer that you’re letting your property or room on Airbnb, then your policy could be invalidated. Some insurance companies in America have refused to insure homeowners who let through Airbnb and there are insurers here who don’t offer cover for short term lets, as the risk is much greater than long term tenants or a home just occupied by the owner and their family. It’s important to talk to your insurer and tell them that you’ll have paying guests in your home. You may then need to take out extra insurance, if your provider offers it.
Airbnb pride themselves on being a responsible company and fostering a sense of community among their customers. For that reason, they off a Host Guarantee. This covers hosts up to £650,000 in the event of damage or theft of property by guests, but Airbnb stress that this isn’t an insurance policy and shouldn’t be used in the place of one. For one, it doesn’t cover valuables – such as artwork or jewellery – or cash and it doesn’t cover injuries to or theft of pets, damages to communal areas in your building and personal liability. This means that Airbnb wouldn’t be obliged to pay out if a neighbour was injured by your guest or if the guest injured themselves through some negligence on your part.
Airbnb is a fantastic way to make money when tourism in your area is booming. In some cases, it may even pay for your holiday while guests are letting your house. However, without the proper protection against damage, theft and personal liability, it could turn out to cost more than it earns, so it pays to be prepared.
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