A man who listed his ‘much needed’ council flat in central London on Airbnb has been fined £100,000.
Council tenant Toby Harman, 37, had been renting out the ‘cosy studio apartment in Victoria’ on the app under the name Lara since 2013.
His listing, which offered a room for up to two guests and use of a hot tub, gained 300 reviews in that time.
The reviews eventually led to his identity being discovered by Westminster City council during a crack-down on council property being illegally sub-let.
Harman was found thanks to anti-fraud software that detected his first name being used in the reviews.
An investigation also found bank statements that showed he had been cashing in payments from Airbnb for several years, The Times reports.
After a failed appeal attempt he has now been slapped with a £100,974 fine by the council.
Council spokesman Andrew Smith said: ‘Social housing is there to provide much-needed homes for our residents, not to generate illicit profits for dishonest tenants.
‘It’s illegal for council tenants to sublet their homes and we carry out tenancy checks, as well as monitoring short-term letting websites for any potential illegal sublets.
‘Along with a six-figure unlawful profit order, by getting a possession order, we can now reallocate the property to someone in genuine need of a home.’
Mr Smith said the local authority is now pressing to have a national registration scheme introduced so they have a better chance of clamping down on anyone who breaks the rules on short-term letting.
Last year, 24 social housing properties were recovered from fraudsters and will now be allocated ‘to residents in need of a new home’.
Airbnb, whose listings in London have increased fourfold to 80,000 since 2015, said the property was taken off its listings earlier this year.
The company said it routinely reminded hosts of the rules on short-term letting, including for subsidised housing, and it ‘takes action’ when any suspicious activity is flagged.
A statement added: ‘Airbnb is the only platform that works with London to limit how often hosts can share their space and we support proposals from the mayor of London for a registration system to help local authorities regulate short-term lets and ensure rules are applied equally to hosts on all platforms in the capital.’