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Short-term lets face stricter rules as review gauges impact on tourist hotspots

Curbs on Airbnb-style rental properties in England are being proposed by the UK government as part of a review aimed at reducing the negative impact of short-term holiday lets on residents and the housing market in tourist hotspots

Spot checks on rental properties to see if they are obeying noise and antisocial behavior rules together with healthy and safety regulations are proposed under the review, launched on Wednesday.

A self-certification scheme with which hosts must register before they operate has also been floated to help local authorities track down and fine rule breakers.

The review, which will last for three months, comes after landlords and homeowners in popular holiday destinations raised concerns over how the proliferation of Airbnb rentals is having a negative effect on communities.

Between April 2016 and January 2020 active Airbnb listings jumped from 76,000 to 257,000 across the UK, before the company took a hit from Covid-19 curbs.

Cities including Amsterdam, Barcelona and Paris have introduced more far-reaching crackdowns on Airbnb.

The review will also re-examine provisions outlined in the 2015 deregulation act, which relaxed the rules on short-term lets in London. Earlier this year the head of the Westminster council called for stricter regulations, saying short-term lets were “making life hell” for some residents.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport acknowledged the “many benefits” brought by such lets, including increasing holiday rental options and allowing people to make money from spare rooms and second homes.

But it added that “the government understands there can be an impact on housing supply and price in these areas and there are fears caused by evidence of a rise in antisocial behavior including noise, waste and drunken behavior in local communities”. The department also highlighted lower health and safety protections for guests.

“Holiday-let sites like Airbnb have helped boost tourism across the country but we need to make sure this doesn’t drive residents out of their communities,” said Stuart Andrew, housing minister. He added that the review would help “make sure the tourism sector works for both residents and visitors alike”.

The devolved administrations in Scotland and Northern Ireland have rolled out similar schemes, while the Welsh government has announced plans to do so.

Airbnb called on the UK government to “acknowledge that not all forms of tourism are created equal and not all accommodation providers are the same”.

“People who host in their home represent a category of accommodation providers who differ fundamentally from both property speculators and hotels, and rules should be proportionate to the activity provided,” it added.

Merilee Karr, chair of the Short Term Accommodation Association, welcomed the review but stressed that any new regulations should “recognize” the important role played by short-term lets in England’s tourism sector.

However, Ben Beadle, chief executive of the National Residential Landlords Association, said the suggested policies “would be unlikely to remedy” housing supply problems. He said tax changes, rolled out between 2017 and 2020, to stop landlords from deducting their mortgage interest costs when working out their taxable profits incentivised short-term rentals.

“What we see today is entirely a problem of the government own making, which has decimated rented housing supply when demand is at record highs,” Beadle said.

He added the government had been “warned” the policy “would drive landlords into the short-term holiday lettings market to the detriment of long-term sustainable renting”.

Additional reporting by George Hammond

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