Airbnb scam alert? A landlord’s tale of deceit, tenant troubles and growing costs

Airbnb scam alert? A landlord’s tale of deceit, tenant troubles and growing costs

0:03 AM, 2nd May 2023, About A year ago 10

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Hello, I am writing to report a situation regarding the leasing of my flat in South West London. I enlisted the services of a small local agency and we eventually found a tenant, a Canadian citizen who visited the property with his girlfriend.

Despite my asking price of £1,825, he offered £1,850 and proposed a three-year contract, I wanted two, which I agreed to with a one-year breaking clause. He even offered to deposit more than what the agency had requested as he had recently sold his house.

Unfortunately, when the tenant was supposed to move in on March 31st, he refused to do so after claiming to have discovered new information regarding a £16.5 million funding issue for the building. Despite being previously informed and having already visited the property while it was still undergoing renovations (scaffoldings) he claimed to have found the information on a Facebook group.

He also alleged that his car was damaged when he attempted to park it outside the property. This led to a heated exchange between him and the agency, with him ultimately opting to stay in an Airbnb instead at £123/night. During the visit (him and his girlfriend), she said she lives 5-10 mins away, South West as well, It’s a Friday. My agency did not inform me that day.

During the weekend, I received three calls from the entry door to my flat, which I received on my phone as my number was still linked to the entry door. I thought he had invited friends to celebrate his move.

On April 4th, the tenant demanded the return of his deposit by 5 pm, with the threat of legal action if it was not met. On April 6th, he demanded the return of his deposit, the cost of his six-night Airbnb stay (£123 per night), damages to his car (£378), and removal expenses (£110). Furthermore, he threatened legal action to recover his losses as a result of the alleged professional negligence he had been subjected to throughout the leasing process.

During this time, I discovered that the set of keys to my flat’s master lock was missing (installed on my door). I also learned that all balconies in the building would have to be closed for nine months from early May, although I had initially believed that only the metallic parts of the building needed to be removed. I offered a £300 rent cut for the closing of the balcony. Otherwise the flat is in perfect condition. He refused and evoked his right to quiet enjoyment.

In light of these events, a few days ago, I have decided to break the contract and offer the tenant a Deed of Surrender along with a full refund, 100%.

However, the tenant has refused to sign the document unless I pay him £4,500 (AirBnB £3,400, car damage £500, solicitor £168, interest rate 8%…). Given he’s very generous, he offered to cut it to £2,400! Immediate refund or justice + he will keep adding new costs.

I have asked my agency for assistance but they have advised that it is solely a matter between the tenant and myself; and that they cannot market the flat or find a new tenant until the current tenant signs the Deed of Surrender. This has left me without any rent income and with ongoing financial obligations to the bank.

I have discussed this situation with three friends, two are landlords, and they believe that it is a scam (find a flat with scaffolding/cladding -> move to a AirBnB -> put pressure on the small agency/landlord) + that the agency is responsible for the current state of affairs. Despite my attempts to resolve the issue, the tenant has repeatedly asked for more compensation.

Has anyone experienced the same matter?

What are my options given he will never move in and he’s blocking the process?

Thank you for your attention to this matter.


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Judith Wordsworth

11:22 AM, 2nd May 2023, About A year ago

Did both parties sign and date the contract? If not then there is no contract/tenancy. Was a checkin completed?

Were you aware of the building works and importantly the funding issues? Did you, or your Agent, fail to mention this to the prospective tenant ie if funding issue works will not start, or if started may not progress, until funding issues rectified.

Who had the set keys to your flat’s master lock?

From what many of have seen on the media closing off the balconies would deny any tenant natural light; the work will be noisy and likely intrusive.

Personally return the monies asked for, £2,400, and accept a Deed of Surrender. Claim it as an allowable expense against tax.

If the damage to the car was caused, or attributed, to the builders/scaffolders then he, or you as property owner, would need to make a claim against the company via your freeholder's block insurance I would have thought.


11:49 AM, 2nd May 2023, About A year ago

What has a funding issue got to do with a tenant?


7:22 AM, 3rd May 2023, About A year ago

If he did not actually move in, the contract is null and void. Has he provided receipts for AirBnB, proof of car damage, garage repair expenses? Report him to Action Fraud / Police or countersue.


11:34 AM, 3rd May 2023, About A year ago

Reply to the comment left by GLee at 03/05/2023 - 07:22
Hi Glee,
No according to what he says he did not move in. So far no proof of his AirBnB, car damages expenses.
If it's a fraud, it could be quite easy to provide AirBnB expenses (?)


11:58 AM, 3rd May 2023, About A year ago

Reply to the comment left by Judith Wordsworth at 02/05/2023 - 11:22
Hi Judith,

Yes both parties dated and signed the contract. I don't know if the checkin was completed. He said he never moved in.

I was aware of the building work but I did not understand my balcony on the west side of the building would also be closed. The funding for my building was extended to £16 million (approved/governement), which was originally less. Therefore, the final decision was to replace almost all of the cladding, not only the "grey paneling"

I asked my neighbor to check the master lock twice, but the keys were not inside. I also asked the agency about this, but they have not replied yet. Only my agency and the tenant knew the code to the master lock. Either the agency or him.

In my living room, there is a large balcony and a large window which provide sufficient natural light. However, indeed it could be noisy and intrusive.

Each time I have agreed to negotiate, he has asked for more money and additional compensation for damages. The last contact was on Friday, and I am almost certain that he will now ask for £3000. He has been staying in an Airbnb for over a month now, suspicious (?)


12:03 PM, 3rd May 2023, About A year ago

Reply to the comment left by Puzzler at 02/05/2023 - 11:49
Hi Puzzler,

The original funding was less than £16 million, but since it has been extended and approved, additional work will be done, including work on my balcony (which I did not understand).
As for the rest, he inspected the building with the erected scaffolding (at that time nothing on my balcony)


12:22 PM, 3rd May 2023, About A year ago

Reply to the comment left by Landlord44 at 03/05/2023 - 11:58@ Judith, Adding: Yes the check-in was done on the 30th of March


21:19 PM, 3rd May 2023, About A year ago

I would resist any payment whatsoever. Return him his deposit, 1st month rent etc but no way should you pay his AirBnB or car repair. It was his choice to move into AirBnB. You did not cause the car damage. No way can he charge you 8% interest, only a Court can permit this. Tell him to sue you if he dares.


18:11 PM, 5th May 2023, About A year ago

Update: The reply below was sent to the tenant:

"Dear XXX"

Following your Landlords offer to release you from your tenancy agreement and the Deed of Surrender, as you have not signed and returned this your Landlord is advising that his offer to release you as per the Deed of Surrender will be rescinded should you not sign and return the Deed to us by 4.00pm tomorrow (Thursday 4 May).

Should you not sign and return the Deed, all rent already paid will not be returned to you, and your next rent will be legally due on 30 June. The tenancy is ongoing, and you remain legally bound by it, with rent due each month.

Your Landlord has tried to accommodate you by first offering a reduced rent, which you rejected, and then by offering to release you. Should you not accept the release as per the Deed, then all offers will be withdrawn.

By not moving into the apartment you have incurred additional costs yourself and these will not be borne by your landlord.

Best regards"

And... he visited the agency yesterday and signed the deed of surrender.
I am glad it's over.

Conclusion: resist the pressure, do not send any payment

Thanks all for your comments (GLee thanks)

Judith Wordsworth

10:28 AM, 6th May 2023, About A year ago

Reply to the comment left by Landlord44 at 03/05/2023 - 11:58
Ask your agent if they completed the check-in or just gave him a set of keys/code.

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