Government urged to introduce regulations for short-stay lettings websites

A London Assembly Member (AM) is calling for short-term rentals websites such as Airbnb to have to register with local authorities and share data on the length of stays.

Labour AM Tom Copley is pushing for tougher regulations on rentals websites.

The Government introduced a new law in 2015 that limited short-term letting of whole residential premises in London to a maximum of 90 days in a calendar year.

This is voluntarily enforced by Airbnb but Copley warned that others need to follow suit.

He also said it would be easier if there were a technology platform where these websites could submit the length of stays to a local authority so they could be monitored.

Such a move could create extra work for lettings agents such as Portico, which has its own Airbnb management service, and Hunters, which last month said it would list properties available for “super short-term lets” on Airbnb.

Copley said: “Airbnb’s decision last year to voluntarily enforce the 90-day limit on short-term lets was a very welcome step forward, but they’re no longer the only player in the market. It’s vital that they and other short-term rental platforms continue to engage with local communities and city authorities.

“They should be looking to work with national and local government to help lay the right regulatory framework to protect long-term housing and build cohesive communities.

“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.

“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.

“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. Given these impacts on neighbours, it is unsurprising London’s most affected local authorities are so concerned about the issues raised by short-term lets.

“Let’s give them the tools they need to clamp down on abuses of the system.”

Fran Milsom, co-founder of Air Agents, which helps list and manage Airbnb rentals, said regulation was positive: “The ‘sharing economy’ is on the rise, and is here to stay. It doesn’t come without its difficulties, but there are so many benefits both for the individual and the local community. There are many lessons we can learn around licencing and registration, and we can look to other cities to understand best practice.

“We were founding members of the UK Short Term Accommodation Association, a membership body that is dedicated to creating sustainable pathways and influencing legislation.

“We are working with local authorities and the Mayor of London’s office to help regulate the market.

“Most authorities have signed up to a 90-day rule, and this is something we support, but more needs to be done to prevent anti-social behaviour or misuse of property.”

Mark Lawrinson, regional director for Portico, also backed the proposals.

He said: “As an estate agent offering management services on Airbnb in London, we support the enforcement of the 90 days and ensure that our clients only use the service for 90 days.”

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