We have been made aware of a new, and seemingly organised attempt to extort money from owners of holiday accommodation, the one night holiday.
The One Night Holiday Scam
We have encountered a situation in which a short let (one night) was booked. The guest turned out to be a group of people who then refused to leave the following morning. This was an organised attempt to extort money from the owner of the holiday accommodation and the owner subsequently learnt his was not an isolated case.
As a result of the online booking processes organised criminal gangs can spot where there is a small gap between bookings and hence know when owners will be caused expense and inconvenience. The usual tactic of evicting when they are out for the day, as one might do with an overstaying family, is unlikely to work as the gangs will ensure that the property is never left unattended.
One Night Holiday Scam Avoidance Tactics
There are a couple of things that you can do to avoid being a target of gangs booking short lets:
- Avoid one night, possibly two nights, bookings. The gangs will not wish to spend a large amount of money on a longer-term holiday booking; and
- Control your own bookings as far as is practicable.
What To Do If You Are Affected by The One Night Holiday Scam
1 – Contact the police
If the occupier has used any threats, for example to cause damage to the property, to not leave unless they are given a sum of money/some other benefit then their conduct is criminal.
The police may form the view that only the person making the threats is committing the offence but if the threat includes, for example, other people remaining in the property then they may be accessories to the offence and hence have secondary liability.
The occupants may be known to the police and be reluctant to face charges.
2 – Be very clear that you are not going to pay them any money
The occupants are not looking for a free extension to their holiday, they are aiming to extort money from you. If they understand that that will not be forthcoming, then they may take the decision to leave and try another target. They will be making a commercial decision.
Gangs communicate with each other. If one has succeeded in obtaining money another may be more likely to try. Indeed members of the original group may return using another name.
3 – In the event that they do not leave of their own volition or through police action then they are squatters from the point at which the booking period ends
They can be evicted by way of obtaining a court order. This will take some days and may be costly but will enable you to recover the property without giving in to the threats.
4 – Common law evictions
This is only available if a trespasser is on your land and has not entered a building so is unlikely to be of use. We mention it purely to ensure nobody mistakenly uses this route and exposes themselves to any prosecution or risk of a damages claim.
The above is intended as a general guide and should not be relied upon in a specific case. No liability is accepted in the event that such guidance is relied upon.
The law as set out is the law of England only.