Aristocrat sues Airbnb owner who cut power


An aristocrat is at odds with a landlord over claims she was left to ‘live in complete darkness’ when he cut the power to her Airbnb rental in a row for cash.

Countess Christine Bolza, 48, says she and her husband, Count Niki Bolza, 51, had ‘no lights, no heating, no fridge’ for 20 days after falling out with the landlord of the Maida Vale apartment they had been renting since November last year. She is suing Talha Abbasi for £25,000 in damages for “anxiety, annoyance and mental stress”, in a battle that cost £110,000 in legal fees. Mr Abbasi says the couple are actually squatters and owe £40,000 in unpaid rent.

Count Niki and his architect brother, Benedikt, helped renovate their family’s estate in Umbria, Castello di Reschio, now a famous retreat for the wealthy. But he and his wife developed cash flow problems in the run-up to the collapse of their property company. Nibco, which in 2019 planned to turn a department store in Liverpool into a 157-room hotel, was liquidated in July.

When they struggled to pay the £3,435-a-month rent in March, the couple said the electricity went out. In Mayor’s County and City Court, the Countess said Mr Abbasi “attempted to gain access to the apartment in an intimidating and aggressive manner”. He says he only turned off the electricity after his electrician refused to sign off the meter as safe.

The Countess’ solicitor, Michael Marsh-Hyde, said when the couple were unable to make full payment of the rent, they informed the landlord: ‘We are satisfied that Mr Abbasi threatened to turn off the electricity unless she leaves the premises the next day. On March 16, 2022, the electricity was cut off. He said he remained off until April 4.

The couple claim their extended stay gives them legal rights equivalent to a short-term rental. Mr Abbasi says it was a “holiday” rental, giving them limited rights. He denies breach of covenant, attempted unlawful eviction, interference and harassment, and sues for allegedly unpaid rent.

Judge Stephen Hellman has reserved his decision for a later date.

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