‘Tenant has hijacked our house’: Couple in Booking.com battle
A couple were horrified when they found their own house in Norwich being advertised on Booking.com for £118 a night.
Susan and Bob Orme were shocked when their house in Kerrison Road appeared on the website offered to guests by a "family-run business which believe our home is your home".
In fact it was actually the Ormes' house - and they had no idea it was being offered to people looking for a break in the city.
The description on Booking.com advertised the property as the perfect place to visit with the host stating "every guest feels like they are getting the experience they are promised and everyone has a welcomed, warm time from the moment they open the door up until the same moment that door is closed".
Potential guests were promised "space friendly decor" and even pets allowed at no extra charge as well as bottled water and fruit on arrival.
But for the Ormes it was the start of a nightmare.
The couple, who live in Unthank Road, Norwich, believe the tenant - who this paper is not naming for legal reasons - has been sub-letting the house without their knowledge or consent.
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Mrs Orme - an experienced landlord who has been letting properties for almost 20 years - rented her three-bedroom Victorian terrace on an assured shorthold tenancy agreement in early December.
Because the tenant is in breach of the agreement, which disallows sub-letting, the Ormes have now served her with an eviction notice. They are also pursuing the option of further legal action to repossess the property if she fails to leave the house by the agreed date.
Mrs Orme, 59, who owns seven buy-to-lets and is a member of the Eastern Landlord's Association, said: "Alarm bells rang when my old tenant went round to pick up some mail and a man answered the door. I later went round myself and two people were in my house and said 'we're Airbnb-ing it.'
"I let the house for £835 a month and it was being rented out for more than £100 a night. The tenant said she was an interior designer and asked to make some changes to the property - I now think she was dressing it to rent it out.
"I've had neighbours complaining about noise and the fact there are different people coming and going, sometimes late at night, in a road which is usually very quiet. Rubbish has also been piling up outside and we are concerned about the safety aspect of it all as we can't access the house ourselves.
"It says on Booking.com that it's a 'pet friendly' house when I don't even allow any pets."
There is no suggestion Booking.com has done anything wrong.
Mr Orme, 64, a retired Aviva human resources director, said the tenant also changed the locks and rent is in arrears. The couple have now spent hundreds seeking legal action.
Mrs Orme added: "I haven't been able to sleep, it's really affected me emotionally. The house has still been appearing on sites - my friend went on one of the sites and was offered a three month booking for £7,600 with £1,000 off if they booked it immediately."
Mrs Orme said she has contacted the websites involved as well as the HMRC, the ELA and even the police.
When this newspaper tried to book the house it was available for a two night stay in April for £237, including a £50 cleaning fee and with an additional £100 refundable damage deposit.
It is pictured with an image of the football ground and eight photos of the house interior.
When this newspaper contacted the tenant she said she did not know why the house was currently on Booking.com and said she would ask for it to be removed. "I have spent more than £2,000 on the property and made it 150% better, but it's been a big misunderstanding. When I first said to Mrs Orme that I wouldn't be at the property all the time, she said fine and she'd leave it to me.
"But I will leave as I don't want to stay anywhere I'm not wanted."
Tessa Shepperson, a legal expert with Landlord Law Services in Norwich, said: "When a tenant is in breach of their tenancy agreement, landlords are actually quite limited in what they can do, but if someone is illegally sub-letting, it can affect a landlord's mortgage or insurance.
"But police are not going to turn up and put a tenant in handcuffs and it's disgraceful how long it can take to get a repossession order. I would advise an eviction notice and then a court injunction. It also highlights the need for landlords to make regular inspections of their properties - every three months to ensure tenants are not sub-letting, having illegal lodgers or engaged in criminal activity."