Brits Rent Out Homes to Score at Wimbledon

LONDON -- Wimbledon homeowners beware. The British taxman is watching over the world's most prestigious tennis tournament.

Many residents in the affluent enclave of southwest London rent out their homes to players and jet off for a holiday over the Wimbledon fortnight.

They return to find a nice, fat check on the doormat. This year, however, they may also find a tax demand lying there.

"Every year, many Wimbledon residents jump on the tennis bandwagon to make some extra cash," said Geraint Jones, who is a tax adviser at accountants Blick Rothenberg.

"Many people could be on a real winner. Simply renting their houses out for two weeks could pay their mortgage for a whole year," he said.

But a spokesman for the Inland Revenue had a word of warning for homeowners suffering a bout of tax amnesia at the start of Wimbledon 2005: "Don't wait for us to come looking for you."

"It is the job of our investigators to know what is going on in the area. People are well aware their income will be taxable. There is no excuse for that income not to be declared."

With over a half-million tennis fans descending on Wimbledon, the fortnight can be a cash bonanza for the more enterprising residents, several of whom also turn their gardens into mini car parks or pitches for souvenir sellers.

For globe-trotting tennis stars who live out of a suitcase and get heartily sick of hotel living, Wimbledon offers a more homely touch.

And the physical demands of the tournament mean they are unlikely to be wrecking their hosts' homes with wild nights and hard partying.

"I have never had a house trashed," said Joanna Doniger, whose company, Tennis London, rents out 130 properties in Wimbledon with prices that can reach up to ?5,000 ($9,000) per week.

"The players are certainly not here to party. This is very focused and serious stuff. They spend their whole lives in hotel rooms on tour, so Wimbledon, I hope, is a welcome relief," Doniger said.

The demands of the Grand Slam tournament particpants demands are simple: a king-size bed to stretch out in, a power shower to scrub down in and a washing machine to get those obligatorily predominantly white tennis outfits sparkling again.

Those living in rented homes have an extra incentive to do well.

Players have to pay two weeks' rent in advance -- so going out in the first round can be costly.