​The accidental Landlord: "When I said treat the place as your own..."

The accidental landlord says medium-term lets are safer than renting out your place for the weekend to bogus tenants who fleece you.
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Landlords who want to squeeze more money out of their properties but don't want the hassle of short lets might want to consider medium-term lets of one or two months instead.

Although short-term lets are lucrative they can be very time-consuming for landlords, and it seems they are a little risky, too, given the recent story of one London home owner who advertised their Kensington Gardens flat on Airbnb and was duped into letting it to a pair of bogus agents for the weekend.

After picking up the keys, the pair advertised the place as a permanent let on the flat-sharing website Spareroom and fooled five different tenants into handing over a total of £8,500. All five were waiting to move in when the owner returned from their weekend away.

The flat owner doesn't appear to have suffered any financial loss, but still, no one wants to come home to find their doorstep crowded with angry tenants who have been fleeced out of thousands of pounds.

I have since heard about a free-for-landlords website that specialises in medium-term lets, typically for two to three months, and claims to offer more security. FlatClub (www.flat-club.com) was set up to find rentals for business travellers, students and interns. Anyone can use the site to look for accommodation, but landlords can choose to let only to employees of companies or to students attending top universities that have signed up to the service. The site's co-founder and chief executive, Nitzan Yudan, says it verifies the identities of those claiming to be attending any of the 50 or so universities that it works with, which include London Business School, Central St Martins, King's College and New York University.

In theory, this should eliminate the small risk of letting to a con artist. And while you can't assume someone who works for a particular firm or attends a prestigious university will be a model tenant, they are probably a safer bet than a random booking via a holiday lettings site.

I've got a bit of a downer on students as the undergraduates in one of my flats are pretty forgetful with the rent, but Yudan says the average age of those using FlatClub is 32, so they ought to be more responsible than my bunch.

FlatClub can be used to offer lets of just one or two nights but Yudan says the average let is 30 days, compared to five days on Airbnb. He says many guests want to stay two to three months, so it might be ideal for landlords who don't want the inconvenience of a high turnover of tenants but want to make more money than they would get from standard six- or 12-month lets.

At the moment there are only 2,000 searches a month on FlatClub for accommodation across the UK, so I don't think landlords could rely on this site to keep their properties full. However, it could be a good option for those with gaps to fill between lets, or for home owners who want to rent out their properties while on an extended holiday. Like all lets, it's not completely risk-free. Landlords are automatically insured by FlatClub but this will only cover damage caused by the tenants, so you would need to check that your regular landlord insurance will still cover you for other hazards.

Also, if the property is mortgaged, you ought to check your lender will allow medium-term lets as some insist on standard Assured Shorthold Tenancies, which must be for a minimum of six months.

Victoria Whitlock lets three properties in south London. To contact Victoria with your ideas and views, tweet @vicwhitlock

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