Airbnb 101 for Landlords

Airbnb 101 for Landlords

A few landlords have recently asked me if they have the authority to prohibit their tenants from Airbnb-ing(?) their apartments, rentals or similar short-term sub-letting of their units.

The answer is yes, you are legally entitled to prohibit or restrict sub-letting.  In essence, Airbnb-ing falls under the category of sub-leasing.

In my lease I have the following provisions that prohibits short-term rentals and sub-leasing:

  • SUBLETTING & NUMBER OF OCCUPANTS:  The Apartment may only be occupied by the Lessee, the spouse of the Lessee, any children currently living with the Lessee, or any children born to the Lessee after this Lease is signed.  The Lessee cannot transfer any rights under this Lease to any other person, nor can the Lessee sublet any portion on the Apartment to any other person.  The Lessee is permitted to have guests and other temporary visitors and must abide by all the provisions in this paragraph, unless express written permission to the contrary has been given by the Landlord to the Tenant.

The Standard GBREB (Greater Boston Real Estate Board) Lease has the following clause:

  • Subletting, number of occupants: The Lessee shall not assign nor underlet any part of the whole of the leased premises, nor shall permit the leased premises to be occupied for a period longer than a temporary visit by anyone except the individuals specifically named in the first paragraph of this lease, their spouses, and any children born to them during the term of this lease or any extension or renewal thereof without first obtaining on each occasion the assent in writing of the Lessor.

Every version of the GBREB lease; Fixed-term, TAW, self-extending, etc. all have a clause that prohibits sub-leasing.

Tenants and landlords alike may be asking why we would want to prohibit subleasing or Airbnb-type renting.  Below are some of the reasons why:

  1. As the landlord/owner of the property you are responsible for the conduct of its occupants, broadly speaking.  So if the police are constantly showing up due to loud parties… or even worse, you make the local news because your house is a known Airbnb underage drinking den, this will not bode well for you.
  2. More importantly, you are liable for keeping the property secure if it is a multi-family building, and that your tenants are not disturbing other residents if it is a condo/townhouse.
    • In both scenarios mentioned above, the prospective Airbnb host would give a key to the apartment/unit door as well as the common area door.  This is risking the safety of all other residents in the building.
  3. In the event of an emergency you could be liable.  For example, if there was a fire in a multi-family home you need to know the names of all occupants in each unit.

Aside from the safety and legal problems it could potentially create for you, there are many logistical issues and other complaints that you will likely have to deal with.  For example, a mysterious car parking at the property.

There are also financial ramifications; increased water bills, increased heating bills, etc.

Framingham, Ashland, and Natick have not yet adopted any regulations or a registration system like nearby Cambridge, MA.  In late 2017 Cambridge adopted guidelines for those who want to be Airbnb hosts.  Just last month, they launched a website requiring those who host Airbnb renters follow strict guidelines, register with the City, and more.  You can visit their website here: Short Term Rental – City of Cambridge


Shannon McCullough

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