William Kay

The risks of being a modern landlord

The spate of terrorist attacks in London and Manchester has made many landlords and their insurers nervous about the risks of letting strangers rent houses, flats or even rooms without even closer checks.

This is not about getting money upfront, though that can act as a deterrent. No, it is the still thankfully tiny but nevertheless horrific danger that your property will be used as part of a terrorist cell, exposing it to potentially huge damage if an explosive experiment goes wrong, along with the possibility that it will be out of bounds during a police investigation and the neighbourhood’s reputation blackened for years.

Until recently, the government was all for encouraging bedroom lets, and firms like Airbnb have introduced a degree of informality to the whole rental procedure. Social media, credit card details and smartphone photographs seemingly made it foolproof. All you had to do was collect the money.

Airbnb does conduct thorough background checks, including reference to the terrorist register of the US Office of Foreign Assets Control. But false identities are the bread and butter of intending villains, and Airbnb admits its checks ‘are never a guarantee that a person won’t break the law in the future’. Several UK terrorists have had no previous convictions.

There is a clear incentive for plotters to gain an address and a base in a town or district with no previous links to anything untoward. We cannot assume that they are going to look like semi-militia with suspiciously bulky luggage. One of the London Bridge attackers wore an Arsenal shirt.

Bombs will continue to be a threat, but recent outrages have required no more than a van and several knives. The skills to use those items are considerably less than for making bombs.

Of course, there have been dodgy tenants since the beginning of time.

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