The leaseholder of a council property in central London has been found guilty of advertising it on Airbnb and the Booking.com websites.
Madhukar Kothari, the leaseholder, was found by a tribunal to have breached the lease agreement by using his council property as a business through short-term letting his flat in Westminster.
He was advertising his flat on the two websites to attract tourists looking for somewhere to stay while they visited the capital.
The council sought confirmation emails from the websites which were provided by tourists staying at the property; the emails listed the full address, proving it was being used as a short-term let.
The advert was still listed on both sites at the time of the tribunal hearing, which was also used as evidence.
Kothari did not cooperate with the investigation or attend the hearing but has subsequently taken the listing down from the booking websites.
The council says it’s working with him to ensure he doesn’t re-list the property but adds in a statement: “However, if he does the council will take further action which may result in ending the lease.”
A council spokesman says: “Short-term letting is taking place on an unprecedented level in Westminster – we believe up to 11,000 properties are available for short-term letting across the borough. This places a huge burden on our residents, who are often victims of disruption from tourists coming and going from their estates.
“Our priority is to protect our residents and their communities. Waiting lists for council properties in Westminster are extensive, so we want to continue to defend residents in genuine need of a home.
“We’re pleased with this result and we hope it sends a clear message that we’re taking this issue seriously and will crack down on this type of breach.”
He says almost 1,500 properties in Westminster alone are under investigation.
Working with other councils in London and across the UK, Westminster council wants the government to introduce a compulsory cross-platform registration scheme for property owners, so councils know which properties are being short-term let and for how long.
Short-term letting of council properties is strictly prohibited in Westminster.
While private homeowners and leaseholders may short term let their property for up to 90 days per calendar year, the council does not permit its own leaseholders to short-let their properties.