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Airbnb and short-lets: Councils call for mandatory registration for those renting out homes short-term

PUBLISHED: 17:00 03 March 2020

Short-lets in north London have drawn the ire of councillors like Danny Beales. Picture: Camden and Westminster Councils

Short-lets in north London have drawn the ire of councillors like Danny Beales. Picture: Camden and Westminster Councils

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Camden Council are calling for a mandatory registration system for short-term lettings, and are keen to see it made easier to enforce breaches of the law at what it estimated are 3,400 properties in the borough

Camden Council's heatmap of short-lets in the borough. Picture: Camden CouncilCamden Council's heatmap of short-lets in the borough. Picture: Camden Council

Meanwhile in Westminster - similarly afflicted by the issue - the council successfully took action over a property in St John's Wood identified as breaching rules at a tribunal.

Westminster Council believes there are 8,836 short-let properties available in the borough - as of January 2020 - and it currently has 1,500 "under investigation".

After Camden revealed the number of properties it believes break the 90-night limit on short-lets, at a meeting of Camden's full council Cllr Julian Fulbrook (Lab, Holborn and Covent Garden) said short-lets were "running rampant" in Camden and added: "This is an object lesson in how things can go wrong with the free market economy."

Camden's planning chief Cllr Danny Beales (Lab, Cantelowes) responded by saying: "What started off as a dream peddled by the Tories has quickly turned into a nightmare for our communities."

Westminster Council took action over the listing of a property in St John's Wood. Picture: Westminster CouncilWestminster Council took action over the listing of a property in St John's Wood. Picture: Westminster Council

Cllr Beales, last week announced the council were using new technology to identify and enforce breaches, but added: "There is only so much that we are able to do within the current system that is too easily exploited."

He also reiterated Camden's call for a mandatory licencing system, which he said would make enforcement easier.

Westminster leaseholder Madhukar Kothari, a leaseholder of a council flat in St John's Wood Terrace was advertising his flat on Booking.com and Airbnb.

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The town hall built a case against him by using confirmation emails from tourists who booked to stay at the property on both sites.

The action comes as authorities including Westminster Council, neighbouring boroughs, and the mayor of London seek to clamp down on short-term lettings across the city.

The council is calling on the government to introduce a compulsory cross-platform registration scheme for property owners, so councils know which properties are being short-term let and for how long.

Cllr David Harvey, Westminster's housing chief, said he hoped the tribunal result would "send a message" and added: "Short-term letting is taking place on an unprecedented level in Westminster - we believe up to 11,000 properties are available for short-term letting across the borough. This places a huge burden on our residents, who are often victims of disruption from tourists coming and going from their estates.

"Our priority is to protect our residents and their communities. Waiting lists for council properties in Westminster are extensive, so we want to continue to defend residents in genuine need of a home."

Robert Taylor, who leads the Camden Federation of Private Tenants and attended a stakeholder meeting with Airbnb last week, told the Ham&High: "If that's representative of the anger, there's clearly something going to be coming down the pipeline.

He said he was worried companies like Airbnb were hoping for a registration scheme that was "the bare minimum" and added: "It's very easy to set up a registration system but then what resources do you have to go out and take enforcement action?"

He made clear there was no issue with Airbnb themselves, but with the industrial scale of the short-let sector and added he would like to see a health and safety element in any future licencing scheme.

Referring to Camden's reseatch, an Airbnb spokesperson said: "This industry-wide data does not reflect activity on Airbnb."

The company said it was working with local authorities and the mayor of London on licencing proposals and had implemented measures on its own site to limit law-breaking.


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