There are things that are common knowledge for Airbnb hosts around the world to know. Others are specific to the country, region, or even city. These include tourist demand, short term holiday let accommodation potential and rules governing self catering rentals. Here’s everything you need to know about hosting on Airbnb in Belfast, UK.
Belfast offers a variety of sights, events, and activities for tourists including cultural, natural, and built heritage attractions with Lagan Valley Regional Park, Titanic Belfast, and the Ulster Museum being the most popular visitor attractions in 2017. Other popular attractions include W5, Belfast Zoo, and Belfast Hills. A heavyweight in cultural offerings, the city is home to 35 galleries, 17 theatre companies, 2 concert halls, 15 arts venues, and 150 pieces of public art. Culture, arts, and heritage are key drivers of visitor arrivals with interest in the history of the troubles and black taxi tours being very popular. Music is another element of the city’s cultural profile, offering an eclectic selection including classical concerts, traditional live music in pubs, and massive arenas. There are also music bus tours, exhibitions, and even walking trails. Its rich heritage of historic buildings such as Crumlin Road Goal and St Anne’s Cathedral together with its diverse offering of restaurants, pubs, and cafes lead to the formation of clusters of visitor experiences.
Screen tourism is a growing trend with tourists showing interest in experiences built around film locations. Sports tourism is also on the rise with 18% of visitors to the Greater Belfast Area participating in walking and hiking. Other activities on offer range from cycling and boating to fishing and kayaking. Golf in particular attracts high spending visitors with research showing a further £4 spent elsewhere in the economy for every £1 spent on green fees. The city also hosts over 150 festivals such as the Christmas Market, St Patrick’s Day Parade, and Culture Night.
With its diversity of offerings attractive to many visitor types, Belfast has grown into a significant tourist destination. In 2016, the city attracted nearly 1.5 million trips with its visitor attractions experiencing 4.7 million visits. The majority of visitors were domestic, from Great Britain and Northern Ireland, followed by mainland Europe, Ireland, and North America. The average length of stay was 3 nights with the main reason for visiting being holiday purposes, visiting friends and relatives, and business trips. Corporate tourism is a significant contributor to overall tourism with trade shows, conferences, meetings, etc being in visitors year-round.
According to AirDNA, the leading provider of data and analytics for the short term rental industry, in Belfast:
Rental Demand is 64
Average Daily Rate is £137 (June 2022)
Average Occupancy Rate is 82% (August 2021)
Average Monthly Revenue is £2,400 (June 2022)
Further, 2-bedroom homes are the most popular followed by 1- and 3-bedroom properties.
Flexible is the most popular cancellation policy (34%), followed by moderate (31%) and strict (29%).
Most visitors stayed 2 nights (40%) followed by 1 night (38%).
There are a number of laws and regulations that govern self-catering rentals in Belfast as well as taxes that apply.
Tourism NI recognizes 8 accommodation categories including self-catering units which includes the sub-letting of caravans/mobile homes.
According to Tourism NI, a self catering unit is a self-contained apartment, house, cottage, etc that provides furnished accommodation for visitors including sleeping, dining, and lounge areas and full catering facilities. Basically, where visitors are able to care for themselves.
Sometimes you may need planning permission to use your property as a short term holiday let. This will depend on the extent to which its use as a short term holiday let will change the character of the house, student accommodation, or other premises being used and the degree to which it impacts the surroundings. It is always advisable to check with the council if planning permission is required by submitting an application for a Certification of Lawful Use (Proposed Development).
If the property you are planning to use as short term let accommodation is a listed building, i.e. it has “special architectural or historic interest”, you must apply to the local council for Planning Team for Listed Building Consent. This also applies for erecting signage.
All tourist accommodation providers in Northern Ireland including short term vacation rentals must get certified by Tourism NI before beginning operations. Not doing so will leave you liable to a fine and/or imprisonment.
Once the documents are checked and entered into Tourism NI’s database, a certification officer is appointed to carry out an inspection of the property.
The host will receive a letter confirming receipt of application and fee and informing them of the officer who will be contacting them.
The certification officer will make contact via a phone call to set up a date for the inspection. They will expect the holiday let to be prepared as if a guest was arriving.
Once the inspection has been conducted, the officer will either accept, deny, or advice the host on changes to be made to achieve a positive result.
Host can make the necessary changes and reapply or choose to appeal the decision. Those who passed the inspection can begin operating.
A statutory inspection will be conducted by Tourism NI every four years to ensure compliance with minimum set standards. However, hosts are required to provide a self-review statement each year in between. Tourism NI also carries out spot inspections on an ad hoc basis as well as when a guest makes a complaint.
Self catering holiday rental accommodations must maintain a register of visitors, recording personal information of guests. Guests, in turn, are required to provide this information.
Hosts are required to secure the information, making sure it is not visible to other guests, and retain the data for at least one year.
If the host intends to use any or all of the information provided for marketing, clear consent must be obtained from the guests. GDPR requires that consent be operated separately to the visitor registration process, that no ambiguity in language is present, the pre-ticked opt-in boxes are not used and a clear affirmative to opt-in is obtained. Clear records must be preserved to prove such consent.
Under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, holiday home accommodation providers must make reasonable adjustment to ensure accessibility to persons with disabilities. These include:
Changing a practice, policy or procedure that makes it impossible or unreasonably difficult for disabled people to use their services. For example, amending a ‘no pets’ policy to allow a disabled person accompanied by a guide dog to enter the premises.
Providing an auxiliary aid or service if it would make it easier for disabled people to make use of their services. For example, providing information in alternative formats such as audio tape, Braille or large print.
Offering a reasonable alternative method of making services available to disabled people where a physical feature makes it impossible or unreasonably difficult for disabled people to make use of them. For example, providing staff assistance to guests with disabilities who cannot access goods due to their disability when shopping.
A self catering accommodation rental provider is held responsible for the health and safety of their guests when they are on the premises. Hosts who don’t ensure reasonable safety are liable to be sued in case of an incident.
To make a holiday let property safe, hosts are expected to take common sense precautions such as:
Removing risks and obstructions that can cause guests to slip, trip or fall. For example, a wet floor, loose cables, and cluttered stairways.
Making sure furnishings are fit for purpose and secure.
Ensuring electrical appliances are safe to use.
Making sure guests have knowledge of emergency procedures
Considering the needs of all guests, i.e. children, disabled guests, etc.
If some parts of the property being let on the short term are clearly marked as out of bounds to guests however, these may not apply to those areas.
All holiday let accommodation hosts are responsible for ensuring fire prevention and risk reduction measures are in place. As such, they must:
Carry out regular fire risk assessments
Record the assessment if they employ five or more employees
Put in place adequate fire prevention and evacuation measures
If your self catering accommodation contains upholstered furniture, the furniture must comply with certain safety tests. These include:
Passing a prescribed cigarette resistance test
Cover prescribed fabric, whether used in permanent or loose covers, passing a match resistance test
Filling materials for all furniture passing ignitability test
All new upholstered furniture with the exception of mattresses and bedding as well as loose and stretch covers for furniture carrying a permanent label detailing compliance with fire safety requirements
All self catering rental accommodation hosts are responsible for ensuring adequate safety measures with regards to electrical safety are in place. These apply to most electrical equipment found in the property, from TVs and kettles to lamps and toasters. It is recommended that regular portable appliance testing be carried out on the electrical system and appliances in the vacation rental.
Gas appliances, installation pipework or flue are required to be installed in the short term vacation rental property in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. They must be maintained in a safe condition and be inspected by a gas safe engineer at least once a year.
How your holiday let accommodation is taxed will depend on the type of property you are letting. That is if you are renting:
A room or rooms in your primary residence, or
Another property (house, flat, etc) that is not your primary residence
The Rent a Room Scheme is open to hosts who rent out furnished accommodation in their home. The home must be their primary residence though they are not required to own it.
If your holiday let is eligible, you qualify for a tax allowance of £7,500. That is, you can earn revenue (not profit) of up to £7,500 in the tax year without having to pay tax on the income. If you earn more, you must complete a tax return.
If you share the income from your holiday let with another person such as a spouse, the allowance is halved and applied to each person.
Some hosts who earn more than the threshold may choose not to opt in and simply pay tax on the income.
The scheme is not open for homes converted into separate flats.
Qualifying your short term self catering rental accommodation as a furnished holiday letting confers a number of tax advantages. These include:
Capital allowances on furniture, white goods, etc. (if any assets are also used privately, appropriate adjustments must be made.)
Mortgage interest being deductible from profits
Capital gains tax relief such as Business Asset Disposal Relief, Business Asset Rollover Relief, Entrepreneurs Relief and Gift Hold-over Relief
Profits counting as UK earnings for pension purposes
If the property is jointly owned between husband and wife, the profits can be distributed flexibly between both parties for tax purposes.
For your short term holiday let accommodation to qualify as a furnished holiday letting, it must:
Be available for commercial letting (with intention to make profit) as holiday accommodation to the public for a minimum of 210 days in the tax year. The property is not considered to be available for letting while it is owner occupied. However, the owner can return to live in the property after completing the holiday letting season. This is known as the availability condition.
Have been let commercially as holiday accommodation to the public for a minimum of 105 days of the tax year. If the host owns more than one furnished holiday letting property, they could average the total number of days. A period of grace may also be obtained if the condition is not met every year. This is known as the letting condition.
Not be let for longer term occupation (i.e. 31 days or more) for over a maximum of 155 days during the year. This is called the pattern of occupation condition. Exceptions include if the guest falls ill, has an accident, or is forced to extend their holiday due to a delayed flight and cannot leave.
Be sufficiently furnished with guests allowed to use the furniture.
The profit/loss of a furnished holiday letting must be worked out for each year ending April 5. It must be calculated separate from any other type of rental property. However, all the properties you own in the UK are taxed as one furnished holiday letting business.
If the property is only used for letting as furnished holiday accommodation (no private use) but is closed for some period of the year due to lack of guests, all expenses such as insurance and loan interest can be deducted.
If only part of the property is let as furnished holiday accommodation, then expenditure/receipts must be apportioned reasonably.
If your furnished holiday let business makes a loss, it can only be carried forward against profit of the same business and not elsewhere.
If your self catering accommodation doesn’t qualify under rent a room or furnished holiday letting, it will be treated as self employment and taxed as such. You will also not be able to deduct your finance costs such as mortgage from the income prior to determining the tax amount. It will also be subject to Section 24 restriction on mortgage interest relief.
If your income threshold reaches above £85,000, you must register for VAT, file regular VAT returns and charge guests 20% on their total fee.
Some exceptions include if you let your property to a guest for over 28 days in a single letting. Due to the detail and complexity of rules governing VAT it is advisable to consult a property/tax accountant.
If your short term holiday let is rented out for less than 140 days in the tax year, you are exempt from paying business rates. Instead you must pay council tax for the number of nights the property has been let that year.