U.S. rent prices have significantly risen, leading many renters to explore a creative option: Airbnb-ing their apartments when they travel.
That helps them offset costs, but a big downside is a possible eviction due to a lease violation.
However, that may be about to change for some renters. Recently, Airbnb introduced Airbnb-friendly apartments, a new initiative designed to allow tenants in landlord-approved buildings to list their apartments as short-term rentals legally.
Landlords sign up for the program and get a cut of the profits whenever their renters host a stay — typically 20% of the total booking revenue.
But even if you’re not renting an Airbnb-friendly apartment, it may still be possible to be a short-term rental host — that is, with the right setup and permission from your landlord.
Here's what you need to know about the new Airbnb-friendly apartment program, plus tips for approaching your landlord and getting your apartment listed on Airbnb.
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How Airbnb-friendly apartments work
The Airbnb-friendly apartment program helps tenants find apartments pre-approved by the building owners to serve as short-term rentals. As a leaseholder in one of these approved buildings, you can earn extra cash while legally hosting short-term renters in your apartment.
Currently, the program includes 175 apartment buildings spread out across 25 U.S. cities.
Potential long-term renters who want to be hosts can search Airbnb's website for Airbnb-friendly apartments available to rent.
You can view photos and floorplans of the various apartment buildings – and see estimated earnings.
For instance, individuals in one Dallas apartment community can expect an average of $538 per week from renting out their place.
Airbnb-friendly apartment listings also provide information on:
- The building's features
- Available units
- Unit's layout
- Starting rent
- How often you can host per year
Once potential long-term renters find an apartment they’re interested in, they can contact the building about becoming a long-term renter.
Most of the communities listed on the site place limits on the number of days a renter can sublet their place. For example, an apartment complex in Raleigh, NC, specifies that residents can Airbnb their apartments for a maximum of 90 nights per year.
What to know before listing your apartment as a short-term rental
Tenants have hosted their apartments on Airbnb and related short-term rental sites before the release of the Airbnb-friendly apartment program — often without telling their landlord.
However, running an Airbnb out of your apartment rental is trickier than hosting short-term stays in your own property.
As a tenant, you don’t own the property. You’ve also agreed to follow certain lease rules, which often prohibit short-term rentals.
Before using your apartment as a short-term rental, you’ll want to consider these common concerns and understand your local laws.
1. Local laws may restrict or prevent short-term rental hosting
Local zoning or land-use ordinances may limit short-term rentals, such as how many days per year you can rent your unit or how much hosts can charge.
Some areas require you to register with your city, including paying a registration or license fee.
Some areas may even prohibit short-term rentals.
Therefore, it’s critical to understand the rules in your area before becoming a short-term rental host to ensure you’re following your local laws.
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2. Your landlord could face consequences
Many people don’t realize that secretly hosting some or all of your apartment on short-term rental sites can result in legal consequences for your landlord.
For instance, the Brodsky Organization was fined $53,000 because one of their tenants in New York City was illegally using his apartment as a short-term rental — even though the organization had started an eviction proceeding against the tenant.
3. Your landlord’s insurance may not cover accidents or damages caused by short-term rental guests
If a guest you’re hosting or another resident is injured, your landlord’s insurance or your own insurance may not apply if you’ve broken the rules of your lease.
Additionally, your landlord will have to deal with any damages by your guests.
4. Other residents may have safety concerns
Apartment residents want to feel safe and secure in their homes. And landlords want responsible tenants who follow lease terms.
For these reasons, landlords typically screen potential tenants before leasing to them. Additionally, landlords set up specific contracts and rules to ensure everyone’s safety and keep their property in good repair.
But if a tenant starts using their apartment as an Airbnb without permission, it can raise safety concerns among residents and the landlord.
Other residents will likely notice an influx of people coming and going for brief stays, which can be concerning.
There’s also a potential for the apartment building to take on a more transient feel, especially if multiple tenants are renting their apartments on short-term rental sites.
5. You could be evicted if you broke the terms of your lease
Flavia Berys, a real estate attorney and broker in San Diego, California, cautions would-be hosts to be upfront with their landlords before they begin subleasing portions of their homes to guests via these platforms.
Most apartment complexes, condos, or co-ops have rules regarding subleasing and short-term rentals by tenants through sites like Airbnb.
As one North Texas woman discovered, you could be evicted from your apartment if you violate those rules.
Ashley Stanley listed her apartment on Airbnb in 2016 without first gaining her landlord’s permission. She later received an eviction notice, which the judge in the case upheld.
"I've received calls from property owners who find out their tenant is subletting their property to vacation rental guests," Berys says. "The owners want to know how they can evict their tenant for breach of their lease's restrictions on subleasing. It can get very ugly very fast."
She adds: "That's why I recommend that tenants come to an agreement with their landlords before embarking on this path. Nobody wants to scar their tenant history, especially in a rental market that's already so difficult for tenants.”
Steps to take before listing your apartment as a short-term rental
1. Understand your rental agreement
Carefully check your lease regarding subletting rules and rules about short-term renting.
Your lease may cover situations where you can sublet your apartment, typically with the landlord’s prior consent. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean you can host your place as a short-term rental.
Typically, someone sublets their apartment for a set time to cover their rent while away — not to earn additional money.
Understanding the specific rules written in your lease can help you when you approach your landlord.
2. Know the local laws and any short-term rental restrictions in your area
Before hosting, research your local laws on short-term rentals. This information will help you comply with any restrictions and ensure you have any necessary registrations or permits.
Additionally, you’ll be able to address any concerns your landlord may have about local rules.
To help you start your research, Airbnb provides links to several cities’ short-term rental laws on their Responsible Hosting page. You can also contact your local city’s zoning board, housing authority, or municipal or administrative code.
3. Get your landlord’s permission in writing before hosting
Talk with your landlord before listing your apartment as a short-term rental.
Obtaining their permission in writing will show that you’re following the rules and not violating your lease.
This step also ensures you’ve addressed any concerns of your landlord and enables you to talk to other residents about your plan to host.
4. Review your renters’ insurance policy
Injuries and property damages aren't common when hosting a short-term rental, but you want to be prepared.
Renter’s insurance typically provides some coverage if your personal property is damaged or stolen and liability protection if someone is injured in your place.
However, your policy may not cover situations involving a paying guest. So you’ll want to review your policy or contact your carrier to know your coverage and any limitations.
Additionally, some listing sites like Airbnb may offer protections, but you’ll want to check to ensure that your situation is covered.
How to approach your landlord about listing your apartment on Airbnb
If you’re interested in earning extra money by hosting your apartment as a short-term rental, here are tips to help get your landlord or building manager on board.
1. Talk with them about your plan
Having a well-considered plan on how you’ll host your apartment as a short-term rental can make a good impression and ease any concerns.
Let them know how you’ll comply with any local restrictions or rules.
Be open about how and where you’ll list your apartment. Inform them of any additional protections those sites will provide you and them and any guest screening you’ll be doing.
Inform them of the rules for guests, including how the rules will also cover any of the apartment’s rules.
2. Listen to their concerns – and address them thoughtfully
Your landlord may not fully understand what’s involved in short-term rentals. So it’s understandable that they may have concerns and questions.
Be prepared to address the concerns mentioned in this article, especially local laws and legal concerns. Additionally, know how you’ll cover any potential accidents or damages by guests, so you can address any questions your landlord may have.
If you’re planning on using a hosting site like Airbnb, you can also offer to show your landlord how the service works if they’re unfamiliar with it.
3. Collaborate with your landlord on establishing hosting guidelines or rules
Talk openly with your landlord about setting up rules and guidelines together to ensure they’re comfortable with how you’re hosting. This step will also help them see that you’re responsible for their building and respecting them and other residents.
Some areas to consider include:
- How frequently you’ll host guests
- How many guests are permitted to stay at one time
- Whether you’ll also be present in the apartment when hosting or if guests will be there alone
- Rules for guests regarding what they can and can’t do
- How parking and the use of amenities will work
4. Work with your landlord or building owner
Hosting your apartment as a short-term rental provides you with additional income. But you should ensure the arrangement works for your landlord or building owner.
For instance, your landlord may be more open to you hosting if they will receive a portion of the money earned.
If you enter such an arrangement, you’ll want to get the specifics in writing.