Woman's £1,200 Royal Mile two-bedroom flat listed on Airbnb for £500 a night and up to 14 people by tenant

Frances Sharp found there was nowhere to turn when her flat was being subletted on the holiday let website.

Wednesday, 30th October 2019, 6:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 30th October 2019, 7:15 am

A woman has spoken about the "enormous stress" she was put under after the tenant in her two bedroom Royal Mile flat began subletting it out on Airbnb for up to 14 people.

Frances Sharp, who was speaking to the BBC Radio 4 programme You and Yours, said the tenant in her flat - a convicted fraudster called Robert Gavin - had been letting her flat out on the holiday let flat for £500 a night without permission.

Mr Gavin had been involved in a $40 million fraud case in America with his and his partner's firm North Dakota Developments which was found by the Securities and Exchange Commission to have misappropriated cash from investors.

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A woman spoke of her experience of having a tenant sublet her flat on Airbnb (Photo: Getty Images)

It took the intervention of the BBC for the listing to be taken down and Mrs Sharp is now awaiting a court date over the eviction of Mr Gavin from the £1,200 a month flat.

'It's overcrowded with four'

Mrs Sharp discovered her flat was being let out on Airbnb when the concierge of the building reported to her that there were complaints about noisy parties in a tiny flat that could barely fit four people.

She said: "You can't [squeeze 14 in]. It's got two bedrooms, one bathroom, a very small kitchen, it is overcrowded with four, it is very very small.

"He used the photographs I had used when I gave it to the letting agency so it looked very nice and it is on the Royal Mile which he used to his advantage."

Mrs Sharp said the flat was booked for the duration of the festival meaning Mr Gavin likely made a huge profit.

The landlord also hit out at how powerless she was to do anything about the practice.

She said: "There was very little I could do. I went to the police who were lovely but it is a civil matter, not criminal, so there wasn't much they could do. I went to the council because if you have a HMO there are lots of regulations about bathrooms and kitchens. I went to them but they said there was nothing they could do, Airbnb is totally unregulated.

"It seems there is absolutely nothing else anyone can do.

"My son contacted Airbnb for me and said that it was between the property owner and the host. They just washed their hands of it."

Tenant claimed he was illegally evicted

According to the BBC, Mr Gavin claimed he was illegally evicted from the property with the locks changed and the electricity box and circuits tampered with, as well as being locked out of his home.

He also reported Mrs Sharp to the police for harassment, but Police Scotland told the broadcaster he had ignored follow-up inquiries.

Mr Gavin added that he had been "threatened, harassed, illegally evicted, someone has burgled his home, and he know just wants to move on and ensure his children are happy" and that maintenance issues were not followed up. He added that he had also paid rent in full and on time and kept the property in excellent condition.

Mrs Sharp denies that she sanctioned any change to the locks and that Mr Gavin had refused to allow the letting agents in to check issues or to do an inspection.

She said: "I know nothing about that. I didn't [sanction anything]. Since my husband died I have a very big extended family and circle of friends who are all up in arms about htis situation but no, I didn't.

"The very first time the letting agent went in, and he hadn't been there long, I think they do a routine check possibly for a inventory, he accused them of having stolen things. To the best of my knowledge his children live with their mother."

Mrs Sharp added: "[I've been under] Enormous stress, it is the injustice of it that is stressing me out. Not the bricks and mortar, buildings can be fixed but it is just the injustice of what he is doing, he is causing havoc for people who have been my neighbours for 30 years."

Airbnb removed the flat listing after being contacted by the BBC and said they have zero tolerance for illegal activity and hosts must certify they have permission to list their space.

They added they are working with policy makers on plans for a statutory registration system for short term lets which would regulate home sharing. They have also been contacted by this newspaper.

In a response to the BBC, the letting agent involved said it is regulated under the letting agent code of practice and they followed the code in this case.

Booking.com were also contacted as the listing was on their site and they agreed to take it down.

An Airbnb spokesperson said: "We have zero tolerance for illegal activity, and have removed the user from the platform. All hosts must certify that they have permission to list their space, we remind hosts to check and follow the rules, and we take appropriate action when concerns are brought to our attention.

"We want to be good partners to communities, which is why we recently announced plans to work with policymakers on proposals for a statutory registration system for short term lets that will give authorities the information they need to regulate home sharing effectively. With over two million people staying in an Airbnb each night, isolated issues are rare."

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