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New squeeze on Airbnb-style short lets from politicians across the UK

Politicians in London and Scotland are looking at new controls which could be imposed on home owners letting out their properties via short-let platforms.

Airbnb rentals grew by 50 per cent in London between 2016 and 2017, prompting Labour to call for more effective regulation of short-term lettings in the capital.

In 2015,  the government’s Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government changed the law around short-term lets when it limited short-term letting of whole residential premises in London to a maximum of 90 days in a calendar year. 

However, Labour says London boroughs have never had immediate access to any information that confirms a property is being used for short-term lettings and there is no requirement to notify a borough of such an intention or use. 

Instead, the impetus is on boroughs to prove that a home is not only available for 90 nights a year but has been booked and occupied.

From January 1 this year Airbnb chose to voluntarily enforce the 90-day limit but Labour says that so far other platforms have been slow to follow suit. 

A recent report by Airbnb found that in the year since the enforcement was introduced properties booked for more than 90 nights had dropped from 21 per cent of the total to seven per cent. 

The London Assembly Labour spokesman on housing, Tom Copley, wants more. 

“Let’s sort out information sharing immediately – for everyone’s peace of mind. Cash-strapped local authorities are struggling to enforce against people who turn their homes into hotels by the back door. We need home-sharing platforms to share data with councils to help them target the minority of hosts who abuse the system” he says.

“Government should also legislate to require that short-term lettings hosts register with their local authority. This should be simple and free.  None of this is rocket science – it’s simply catching up with and effectively regulating new technology” he claims.

“I’m horrified that breaches of security, especially around door codes, are accompanied by anecdotes of extreme problems for neighbours, including confrontations with guests and properties being used for parties or even brothels.”

Meanwhile a similar debate is playing out north of the border, where a panel of experts reporting to the Scottish Government has recommended that there should be a 90-day limit on short lets in Scotland, too, with home owners obliged to pay business rates if they exceed the limit.

The panel - which includes Airbnb and tourism chiefs - says Edinburgh now has 41 per cent of all short lets advertised anywhere in Scotland.

“There is clearly a delicate balance to strike in preserving the fabric of communities and accommodating tourists who are attracted to major city centres in Scotland” says the report.

“We do not wish to see the hollowing out of communities in cities, or a growing rise in aggression towards tourists – as has been seen in some other popular European cities like Barcelona” it concludes.

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