Airbnb has issued a lengthy statement in response to a recent raft of criticisms about the effects of soaring numbers of short lets.
The general statement does not address any one specific criticism, but defends the company’s approach; it says it’s “built on the foundation of helping people afford their homes and making communities stronger. “
Critics have included former Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron, who has started a petition calling for planning law to be changed to stop family homes being turned into second homes and holiday lets; a Tory MP in Devon who wants to declare the Totnes area a “housing emergency” because of the number of Airbnb and other short lets; and Cornwall Council threatening legal action against the owners of former council homes who are allegedly breaking covenants by letting them through Airbnb.
The Airbnb statement claims the majority of people letting out rooms or houses via the platform do so as “an economic lifeline."
“Listings are typically rented for around 40 nights a year and travel on our platform in the UK generated an estimated £5.1 billion in economic activity in 2019 alone. As the pandemic has shifted travel trends from big cities to more rural areas, travel on our platform has boosted revenue streams for families and communities.”
The statement continues by saying that the organisation has 1,000 local agreements around the world and has introduced “a series of commitments on supporting short-term rental regulation and to ensure that travel benefits everyone.”
It goes on: “In recent days, we have seen press reports of activity that goes against these values. We take housing concerns seriously and are today sharing our enduring commitment to helping make communities stronger:
1. We are clear that there is no place for unscrupulous landlords on Airbnb;
2. We commit to investigating cases that are brought to our attention by relevant authorities, where a tenant has been unfairly evicted from their property and it has subsequently been listed on Airbnb;
3. Where it is confirmed that laws have been broken or our Terms of Service have been breached, we will take appropriate action in response, which could include suspensions and deactivations.”
It claims Airbnb has ”led” calls for a UK host registration system to help local authorities regulate the short let sector and has contributed to a UK government tourist recovery plan.
And the statement then says: “Under the system we have proposed, hosts would be required to obtain a registration number in order to list their homes on platforms such as Airbnb. Registration of short-term let operators will give local authorities better visibility over the scope of these activities in their area, enabling them to make better informed decisions about a range of issues, including housing.
“To address local housing concerns, Airbnb is also calling for new planning guidance that distinguishes between commercial and non-commercial activity. This would empower local authorities to exercise their existing powers to grant permission or restrict activity in an increasingly transparent and consistent way.”
It concludes by saying it has set out “a suite of tools” to support councils and communities in 10 locations including Cornwall, Devon, Cumbria, Brighton and Wales “through the responsible recovery of tourism in their areas.”