The British government is proposing restrictions on Airbnb-style rental properties in England as part of a review aimed at reducing the negative impact of short-term holiday rentals on residents and the real estate market in tourist hotspots
As part of the audit, which was launched on Wednesday, on-the-spot inspections of properties rented out to propose compliance with noise and antisocial behavior rules, along with health and safety regulations, were proposed.
A self-certification scheme with which hosts must register before doing business has also been launched to help local authorities find and punish violators of the rules.
The review, which will run for three months, comes after homeowners and owners of popular holiday destinations have expressed concern about how an increasing number of rents on Airbnb are having a negative impact on communities.
Between April 2016 and January 2020, active Airbnb ads across the UK jumped from 76,000 to 257,000, before the company struck a blow from the Covid-19 curb.
Cities, including Amsterdam, Barcelona and Paris, have introduced more far-reaching measures on Airbnb.
The audit will also review the provisions set out in the 2015 Deregulation Act, which relaxed the rules on short-term leases in London. Earlier this year, the head of the Westminster Council called for stricter regulations, saying that short-term rent “makes life hell” for some residents.
The Department of Digital Media, Culture, Media and Sports has recognized the “many benefits” that such rentals bring, including increasing vacation rental opportunities and enabling people to make money from vacant rooms and vacation homes.
However, it adds that “the government understands that it can have an impact on housing supply and prices in these areas and that there are fears caused by evidence of an increase in antisocial behavior, including noise, waste and drunken behavior in local communities.” The department also noted lower health and safety protection for guests.
“Vacation sites like Airbnb have helped boost tourism across the country, but we need to make sure it doesn’t drive residents out of their communities,” said Stuart Andrew, the housing minister. He added that the review would help “ensure that the tourism sector works for both residents and visitors”.
Decentralized administrations in Scotland and Northern Ireland have launched similar schemes, while the Welsh government has announced plans to do so.
Airbnb called on the UK government to “recognize that not all forms of tourism are created equal and that not all accommodation providers are the same”.
“People who host in their home represent a category of accommodation providers that is fundamentally different from both real estate speculators and hotels, and the rules should be proportionate to the activities provided,” it adds.
Merilee Karr, president of the Short-Term Accommodation Association, welcomed the audit, but stressed that any new regulations should “recognize” the important role that short-term rentals play in the English tourism sector.
However, Ben Beadle, executive director of the National Association of Housing Landlords, said the proposed policies “are unlikely to solve” housing problems. He said that the tax changes, introduced between 2017 and 2020, in order to prevent landlords from deducting their mortgage interest costs when calculating taxable profit, encouraged short-term rents.
“What we see today is entirely a problem of our own government, which has decimated the supply of rented apartments when demand is at a record high,” Beadle said.
He added that the government had been “warned” that the policy would “force landlords into the short-term holiday rental market to the detriment of long-term sustainable rental”.
Additional reporting by George Hammond