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London council deploys team to catch illegal Airbnb-style short lets

A new team of investigative council officers are hitting the streets of the capital to tackle unlawful nightly letting using websites like Airbnb.

The Westminster council officers will build evidence so that the authority can prosecute landlords who are breaking the government’s 90-night limit on short-term letting.

Traditionally the council has found it difficult to gather sufficient evidence to prosecute, but this is expected to change with the launch of the Housing Standards Task Force.

Residents are being asked to flag nuisance neighbours through a council smartphone app. 

Where evidence is obtained that a property has exceeded the 90 night limit without planning permission, the council will issue an enforcement notice requiring the recipients to observe the limit going forward.

It constitutes a criminal offence to breach the requirements of an enforcement notice and conviction in the Magistrates’ or Crown Court can lead to an unlimited fine and an enforcement notice once served, constitutes a charge on the Local Land Charges Register and can make the future sale or financing of the property more difficult.

Airbnb lettings in Westminster increased from 1,603 in 2015 up to 3,621 in 2017, an increase of 126 per cent. 

As of September 2017 almost 1,500 properties were being investigated for potential unauthorised use for short-lets.

A council spokesman is also calling on the government to introduce a new tax on nightly letting “as local tax payers unfairly bear the burden of our related council services and activities.”

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