Landlords Beware: The Potential Problem With Airbnb No One Talks About

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The internet is a truly wonderful thing. It has made almost all of us more productive, brought the world’s knowledge to our fingertips and made so many things so much easier. Just think about what the internet has done for us landlords in terms of advertising, researching properties and screening tenants. It is amazing to think how different things were just 10 to 15 years ago.

The internet has also made it much easier to interact and connect with people. Most of the time this is a good thing, but this ease of connection can also present some interesting problems for us landlords. It is now quite easy, for example, for tenants to reach out to others and attempt to sublet your properties. Tenants can potentially turn your property into a hotel or youth hostel, and this is something that should be on every landlord’s mind.

Related: AirBnB vs. Traditional Rental Income: A Creative Way for Investors to Cash Flow in Expensive Cities

If you are not familiar with sites like or, I encourage you to check them out. They are actually pretty cool sites, and I applaud the entrepreneurial spirit that brought them to us. I actually use Airbnb when I am planning a trip to search for potential places to stay. These sites, along with others like Uber and Lyft, are for me what make the internet a truly revolutionary thing and I enjoy the fact that they are breaking long standing hotel and taxi monopolies.

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Potential Problems

Despite providing wonderful properties, these sites do present potential problems to landlords. If you have an entrepreneurial tenant (don’t get me wrong, as I am all for tenants finding ways to pay me!) using these sites to sublet your property, you should be concerned. Why? How do you know who is staying at your property? Have they been properly screened like your tenant was? The potential now exists for dozens of people to be passing through your property at almost any time. I have experienced this myself when a former tenant used Couchsurfing at one of my properties. There were sometimes two or three people staying there every night!

In legal terms, this action is called subletting. Subletting (or subleasing) is defined as your tenant conveying the same rights that you conveyed to some third party for a shorter period of time. In essence, they re-rent your property out for a few days or weeks for a specified fee.

As you can begin to imagine, subleasing can give rise to all sorts of issues. Who is coming and going? Are they convicted felons? Axe murders? What liability will you have? Who has the keys to the property? Has everyone returned the keys or are their numerous sets out there floating around? What if they do not leave? What about the extra wear and tear? Who pays for the increased utility usage? Where do they park? The list could go on and on.

Clause Forbidding Subletting

Smarter landlords do not allow subletting. They put a clause in their lease which specifically forbids it. Here is the language taken directly from my lease:

No Subletting: Tenant has no right to sublease or assign Tenant’s rights under the Lease without the written consent of Manager.

Make sure that you have some sort of similar language in your lease to protect you.

Even smarter landlords will be sure to mention sites like Airbnb or Couchsurfing in their leases or house rules and strongly forbid their use on their property. After all, not every tenant will know or understand what subletting is and may innocently think there is nothing wrong with doing this on your property. I can just hear my tenants now: “I did not know that was subletting.”

Related: How To Use Vacation Rental Sites To Make Money Off Residential Income Properties


Even with these clauses and house rules, every landlord should be vigilant as some tenants will still try to do it, especially if your property is located in or near a major city or tourist area. You should surf these websites every once in a while. See if any of the listings match your properties. You might be surprised what you find.

Also, let your other tenants be your eyes and ears. They often know what is going on and will have the same concerns about strangers on the property that you do. If you get complaints of numerous people coming and going, take some time and investigate it. Yes, your tenant may just be really popular and have a lot of friends, but there may be other things going on as well. Perhaps a stern warning and the knowledge that you are aware will solve the problem.

Ever had any experience with tenants using these websites on your property?

Please share with your comments.

About Author

Kevin Perk

Kevin Perk is co-founder of Kevron Properties, LLC with his wife Terron and has been involved in real estate investing for 10 years. Kevin invests in and manages rental properties in Memphis, TN and is a past president and vice-president of the local REIA group, the Memphis Investors Group.


  1. Jay C.

    You bring up a good point about having a clause about subletting. At the end of the day you have a lease and any damage done is against the tenant who signed the lease. You as well hold a deposit and can certainly sue for above and beyond for damages so in the end I think your concerns are mute.

    • Bryan O.

      That’s ridiculous. You are saying that you would prefer to try and sue a former tenant that likely has no real value and probably will not pay than put a line in your lease that tells them they cannot do that? Never mind that the judge may well say that because the tenant didn’t cause the damage and you didn’t prohibit subletting it is your liability. Is it worth your time and money to chase them down? If so, you have too much time and money.

    • Kevin Perk

      Jay C.

      Point well taken. But I think I would rather be a bit more proactive on the front end. I would much rather be looking for the next deal instead of suing a tenant for damages.

      Thanks for reading and for commenting,


    • I think that going after your tenants are lost cause.
      The problem is when the new tenant who doesn’t know you or your manager decide to not to leave or not to pay his new landlord (your original tenant)
      your original tenant can’t do anything about it. he is not the landlord.

      True story: my tenant brought her boyfriend to live with her few nights a week. they had a fight she asks him to leave he says no. she called the cops, the cops entered the apartment, they saw his clothing and tooth brush and they left, saying that he has the right to stay as he legally lives there.
      my tenant didn’t want to stay there no more, left to her parents and I got stuck with the boyfriend who I never met, have him checked or had him sign a lease.
      going after her, my original tenants is useless. she lives paycheck to paycheck ..
      That boyfriend was okay and left after a month but that story could have ended badly for me.
      bottom line: subletting is bad as you lost control over the situation. have your tenant sign the contract hoping he actually understands what it means.

    • Hi guys, maybe I can get some feedback here from the conservative landlords and/ or investor. I’ve been running Airbnb’s for several years now using sub-renting. (I rent out long-term and ask for permission to Airbnb, in exchange for paying for all routine maintenance and upkeep of the property as well as abiding to specific requests of the landlord. (For example A/C goes out and it’s $3k, I offer to pay half. If it’s something wear and tear related, I pay for the full amount.) I also, agree to screen guests according to their restrictions. For example, if they require no smoking, only 2 guests/ night, or a minimum age of 25, I follow that.

      I’m always looking to expand and typically speak to landlords directly or a realtor and am upfront about how I earn a living, but I do regularly get met with a lot of push back and only get an occasional yes.

      What I mentioned above is typically very close to how I present my case and even though we have not had any bad experiences due to the nature of the business which we’ve been successfully running for 3 years now, we still get turned away and I can’t understand why as we follow all county and city ordinances as well as the agreement with the landlord to a T. We also increase revenue by covering the maintenance expenses and paying a higher rent. General Liability is covered by the website policy and we also purchase our own if requested.

      So, is there any real reason why a landlord with an investment property would be against it?

  2. Kevin Dickson

    A much bigger problem is the fact that it is illegal in most cities.

    In Denver, for example, it breaks an old zoning law and the fine can be up to $52,000/year.

    Many of us (including Airbnb) think that is ridiculous and have begun talks with City Council.

  3. I would worry about having an un-screened tenant in the place and cause issues. If AirBnb can get screened applicants/tenants, it would help them quite a bit.

    Of course, AirBnb is no worse than the move-in psycho boy/girl friend.

    • Kevin Perk


      Been there done that with the boy/girl friend. But there is a difference I think due to the subleasing. I think also that couchsurfing is the bigger concern with regards to who is comng and going.

      Thanks as always for reading and commenting,


  4. Ann Bellamy

    Good point about the lease. My lease incorporates my Resident Handbook, and I have just added the clause to my Resident Handbook. I have each tenant initial each page of the resident handbook at signing.
    Thanks for the heads up.

  5. Michael S.

    This is interesting. After reading this article I was reminded of reading something similar whilst perusing through the NY L/T Law. While not explicitly forbidden, it states that “Any lease provision restricting a tenant’s right to sublease is void as a matter of public policy.”

    Now, tenants are still required to get the landlord’s written consent before subletting and are still subject to all obligations of the lease to include future rent.

    However, “If the landlord denies the sublet on unreasonable grounds, the tenant may sublet anyway. If a lawsuit results, the tenant may recover court costs and attorney’s fees if a judge rules that the landlord denied the sublet in bad faith. Real Property Law § 226-b(2).”

    I don’t see this as being expressly for, or against, the landlord or the tenant but it is something that should be considered in your own local markets before adding a lease provision. Obviously, each state will have its own laws and your mileage may vary. I would be interested to know if anyone else has noticed this in their neck of the woods?

  6. Jerry Kaidor on

    Once upon a time, I was wandering through the laundromat across the street from my building. There I saw – written in Spanish – an ad for a room in one of my apartments. It listed the telephone number of my tenant. I sent her a 30-day Notice to Quit for Breach. Even an *attempted* subleasing can be viewed as an irremediable breach of my
    particular rental agreement. She left.

  7. Al Williamson

    Nice work Kevin.

    There are predications that major hotel chains will soon create their own Airbnb offering to help people rent out their guest rooms.

    That’s just around the corner in our free market capitalistic society.

    It might be time for landlords to licensing subletting privileges as well. Everything is figureoutable.

  8. Bryan Williamson

    I had an associate who wanted to start doing short term rentals and came to us for advice on how to get started. After a date with over coffee they embarked on their venture. The only problem was the unit they intended on renting was not their own (as in ownership). They had leased the property and didn’t convey their true intentions. After friction arose in the partnership one partner asked the landlord to release the other partner from the lease. It was during that time the owner found out the true nature of the situation. The owner forcefully evicted them and their guests.

  9. Caitlin Kirby

    Just a note on Couchsurfing – I don’t think this would be considered subletting, as there is no fee associated with Couchsurfing. It is designed for short-term traveling and cultural exchange. Members stay with other members for free, and leave public references.
    So, if you’re trying to prevent tenants from using Couchsurfing, I don’t think a sublet clause will do it.

    • Kevin Perk

      Good point Caitlin.

      Thanks for bringing it up.

      I also think, in addition to Kevin Dickson’s comment, that you can just ban Couchsurfing on your properties in your house rules. I do not think any judge (at least here) would have a problem with you enforcing the rule.

      Thanks again,


  10. I LOVE both sites and use both a LOT as a host AND as a traveler, and am also a property owner of over 100 properties. Never had anything but a PHENOMENAL experience w/ both. Just wanted to clarify that the correct website for Couchsurfing is NOT .com. I use these sites for personal joy vs. as any kind of money making activities (though am amazed how many people come stay through airBNB). Meeting new people is enriching beyond words.

  11. Hi Kevin,
    I live in Canada and I own and rent out a condo in Chicago, Il. I recently found out through a $3200 fine from my building board of governors that my tenant was having people stay in my condo and using the airbnb website. In my Lease agreement with her it says she can’t do any subleasing or anything without my written consent. She definitely did not have my permission or written consent and is refusing to pay the $3200 fine. I am at a loss for what to do. Do you have any insight? Please!

    • Get an attorney and stay out of small claims. You are entitled to the proceeds that your tenant recd from the short term rentals. An attorney will take the eviction, the restitution as well as the suit regarding conversion of property for personal gain as one litigation…..and win on all counts. Once you file the judgement for monies owed plus attorney fees…then you file a lien and a garnishment against all named defendants. This prevents the other party(s) from obtaining loans to buy cars, rent a home, get a mortgage etc. until the judgement is paid in full….including interest. It is public and reported on all credit bureau reports. They must answer the suit or lose by default. An attorney will cost them to show up and poorly represent what can’t be defended. They will try to settle out of court. Your call on that one.

      You’d be surprised how fast people come up with the cash when confronted with that. The judgement/lien will live in most states for 10 years if they drag their feet on paying up.

      Or go to small claims and get nothing. If you are a business, most small claim courts within the US prohibit self representation.

  12. Carlos Gonzalez on

    Can someone help me ?
    I actually rented out my property in amsterdam (I live in Madrid), and my tenants moved to Germany where they actually live, and from there rented out my place on airbnb since January 2016.

    I requested Airbnb to provide me the full list of guest that have been in my place, and Airbnb refuses because of the confidentiality policy that they have with their clients. I already explained that their client was not allowed to use airbnb to rent my property, and I provided full proof with the rental contract and all the data that shows that my tenant was committing a crime.

    Airbnb still says that I need a court order to disclose the details of the activity on my property. I am totally amazed that Airbnb protects my criminal tenant, and not me the owner of the property.

    I am reluctant to hire a lawyer, and go agains airbnb because I assume it would be a lot of stress, but I think is unacceptable that they do not disclose the activity that my tenant has made on my expense.

    • Airbnb isn’t your problem, you are.

      Go there, change the locks. Who has been there isn’t important, they’re gone now. Smarten up or you will end up with a useless investment. Sell the Amsterdam property or move there to be more of a custodian of your investment. Do not think for one minute that the world is filled with nice people who wouldn’t take advantage of you if given the chance…. An old saying: Hope for the best, but plan for the worst.

  13. So what if the tenant is required to have renters insurance? how is the liability different then if the tenant does have friends that come by and occasional spend the night? arent there the same liabilities if a guest gets hurt, etc?

  14. I have the opposite problem – my landlord is listing several units on airbnb, thus turning half of the building into a lodging house. We’ve had some problems with vandalism lately, that included someone lighting a fire on our front porch. I worry about my safety and wonder if something more serious were to happen, would my renter’s insurance be void since there is lodging activity in the building. Cities need to do more to regulate airbnb to protect residential tenants. I rented my unit in what I believed to be a secure residential building, my landlord required an in-person interview and assured me that all tenants were screened similarly, which isn’t the case…

    Just adding my comments, because I think this is a “real” issue that isn’t being discussed – what rights to tenants have to be informed of airbnb units that their landlords operate in their building…

  15. What many of the landlords here are missing in their perspective on the issue of the short term rentals and sub status residencies is that many local officials are being urged to take notice of them and either outright ban them, or more importantly…create new or enforce standing tax structures that tax the income in the same way that they already have in place for hotel/motel. Now, if you’re OK with submitting statements for audit to your city or county for tax review…good luck with that. You know….it’s the old ‘careful what you wish for’ routine. I would, and do recommend that investors and property managers do as much as possible to stay off of local government radar. They are all starving for tax revenue and in most states, so far, residential and a good bit of commercial leasing has been exempt. Think it can’t happen? Auto leases are taxed. Commercial truck leases are taxed. All hotel/motel stays, no matter how long, are taxed, and in some cases get a multi-layer tax….sales, resort, stadium renewal and so forth. A transaction is a transaction whether for money or not….and AirBnb types of transactions are ripe for the taking.

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