Fraudster finally stopped from renting out Edinburgh flat to up to 28 people a night

A convicted fraudster who illegally sublet flats in Edinburgh for two years has had his property removed from Booking.com after advertising it as a Covid-19 regulations-busting party property for up to 28 people.

By Shona Elliott
Tuesday, 15th September 2020, 7:30 am
From left, Robert Lee Gavin, listings of small properties claiming to be able sleep multiple people; top, Brunswick Road, above, 11 Marshall's Court.
From left, Robert Lee Gavin, listings of small properties claiming to be able sleep multiple people; top, Brunswick Road, above, 11 Marshall's Court.

Last month the Evening News revealed that conman Robert Gavin had continued to illegally sublet properties on Airbnb and Booking.com after being permanently banned in 2019.

He was back in the Capital renting out “tiny two-bedroom flats” to dozens of guests for sky-high prices on Airbnb.

Gavin, 40, has a history of international fraud and in 2016 he was found to have taken more than £40 million from many elderly and vulnerable victims in an investment fraud prosecuted by US authorities.

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He returned to the UK and began a new scam, renting out flats and turning them into ‘party houses’ before illegally subletting them to dozens of guests on Airbnb and Booking.com without informing landlords.

He also refused to pay rent, cut off communication with owners and would not leave the property until hired lawyers forced him to do so.

Having rented properties in Sheffield and elsewhere in Yorkshire Mr Gavin arrived in the Capital in 2019 and has rented flats at Brunswick Road, Castle Terrace and The Royal Mile.

Each of these three properties appeared on Booking.com and Airbnb as luxury lets charging thousands of pounds and offering to sleep dozens of people per night.

Mr Gavin is currently renting a four-bedroom property located at 11 Marshall’s Court through Mclean Properties.

The modest flat has been converted into a ‘party house’ kitted out with a hot tub and sauna was advertised as a ‘spa villa’ sleeping 28 people and charging £2335 for two nights.

Booking.com was notified of the dangers surrounding the property by the Evening News more than a week ago but failed to take the advert down.

However, yesterday afternoon, through further pressure from Evening News the advertisement was removed and Booking.com released the following statement.

It read: “At Booking.com, we have zero tolerance for illegal or improper activity conducted via our platform and in the rare instance that we are made aware of potential unlawful behaviour related to a property on our site, we investigate thoroughly whilst also cooperating fully with local authorities or law enforcement to block future activity on our platform.

"Since being made aware of this particular case, we can confirm that we are looking into it further and aim to help resolve and prevent instances like this occurring in the future.”

Previous landlords taken in by Mr Gavin’s scheme have come forward to express their anger that the crook continues to “slip through the system”.

Gavin was contacted for comment but chose not to respond.

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