English Councils Should Regulate Airbnb, says MP

By Holly Brockwell on at

Green Party MP Caroline Lucas says England's local councils need new powers to be able to regulate Airbnb and other short-term letting services, because they're making the housing situation "intolerable."

Last month, Scotland announced it'll be doing just that, charging its local authorities with the responsibility to regulate the short-term letting market in their area. They're also discussing implementing a tax on short-term rentals, and there'll be a new licensing programme whereby local residents can raise concerns about Airbnb lets with the council.

Caroline Lucas's comments came in response to an investigation by the Guardian that found that in some places, there's an Airbnb for every four normal homes. Wired also recently published an eye-opening piece about organised scams on the platform.

Lucas also wants to see local councils enforcing a cap on the number of days a property can be let out on the platform every year, keeping it to 90 days. However, this is already the rule in some places, and Wired's investigation shows it's very easy to circumvent.

Lucas explains:

"Brighton and Hove city council should be given the powers to regulate this industry, which is having such a serious impact on an already overstretched private rental sector and on more highly regulated hotels and B&Bs, which are being undercut. There needs to be a level playing field."

Airbnb, unsurprisingly, disagree. They claim the Guardian has included things like caravans in its data, which shouldn't count because they don't affect local housing – but as far as we can see, if you can live in it, it affects housing.

Patrick Robinson, director of Airbnb's public policy, comments:

"Airbnb is a good partner to cities and we were the first platform to limit how often hosts in London can share their homes. We are also working with cities across the UK on proposals for a host registration system that we will proactively put to the government later this year to help ensure that rules work for everyone."

Another alarming investigation, this time by Vice in the US, quite clearly shows that the rules are not, in fact, working for everyone. They followed up this week with a rundown of the most common scams on the platform, including ways scammers work around the rules.

Brighton resident Chris Hayes tells the Guardian the short-term lets are ruining local life:

"Residents have no way of stopping noise without confrontation. The owners are unknown or uncontactable, the ‘hosts’ do not have contact numbers for out-of-office hours, the council does not have noise abatement officers at night, the police treat it as very low priority.

Airbnbs should be a planning change of use from residential. You need a change of use to convert a home to an office, hotel or shop. Why not to Airbnb?"

A report called Impact of Short-Term Lets released in January by ARLA Propertymark and Capital Economics claims that "nearly half a million properties could be left unavailable for residents looking to rent in the private rented sector, as more landlords exit the market and move into short-term lets due to the raft of legislative changes they have been faced with."

That "raft" of changes includes reducing interest relief on mortgages and a 3% surcharge on stamp duty. We'd play our tiny violin for landlords, but it's in storage because we're living in a caravan. [The Guardian]

Photo by John Tekeridis from Pexels