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Government to review short-term holiday lets sector

A government review into the effect of short-term holiday lets in England will seek to improve the market for those living in popular tourist destinations.

The scheme, proposed in a new government review looking at the impact of increases in domestic short-term and holiday lets, could involve physical checks of premises to ensure regulations in areas including health and safety, noise and anti-social behaviour are obeyed.

Further measures being considered include a registration ‘kitemark’ scheme with spot checks for compliance with rules on issues such as gas safety, a self-certification scheme for hosts to register with before they can operate, and better information or a single source of guidance setting out the legal requirements for providers.

Airbnb data showed a 33% increase in UK listings from 168,000 in 2017 to 223,000 in 2018, with a typical UK host on the platform earning an average of £3,100 a year.

But there can be an impact on housing supply and prices in these areas and there are fears caused by a rise in anti-social behaviour including noise, waste and drunken behaviour in local communities. 

Lower protections for guests caused by negligence of health and safety regulations are also among government concerns.

A call for evidence will allow the government to gather information “to inform any future steps”.

It wants to hear the views of all parties, including hosts, online platforms, accommodation businesses and local authorities over the next 12 weeks.

The announcement of the review came as Airbnb said that its pandemic era ban on parties will be made permanent.

“Disruptive parties and events will continue to be prohibited, including open-invite gatherings,” the home rental firm confirmed. “’Party house’ properties will continue to be strictly prohibited as well.”

Airbnb said it “looks forward to supporting the UK government’s review and to working together with everyone on rules that unlock the benefits of hosting for regular people while clamping down on speculators and big businesses that drive housing concerns and over-tourism”.

Tourism minister Nigel Huddleston said: “We’ve seen huge growth in the range of holiday accommodation available over the last few years.

“We want to reap the benefits of the boom in short-term holiday lets while protecting community interests and making sure England has high-quality tourist accommodation.

“While no decisions have been taken, this review will help us work out the options to look at so we can protect our much-loved communities and thriving holiday industry.”

Housing minister Stuart Andrew added: “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.

“We are already taking action to tackle the issue of second and empty homes in some areas by empowering councils to charge up to double the rate of council tax.

“This review will give us a better understanding of how short term lets are affecting housing supply locally to make sure the tourism sector works for both residents and visitors alike.”

The devolved administrations have taken steps in this area. The Scottish government set out legislation requiring all local authorities in the country to establish a licensing scheme by October 2022. 

Northern Ireland tourist accommodation cannot be provided without a valid certificate issued by the national tourist board. 

Wales has stated its ambition to establish a statutory registration or licensing scheme.

Anyone wishing to advertise and provide guest accommodation in Portugal must register electronically before doing so, Greece requires anyone renting out their home to paying guests to register, and, in parts of Ireland designated ‘Rent Pressure Zones’, hosts are only allowed to short-term let their primary residence after having registered.

David Weston, chairman of the Bed & Breakfast Association, said: “We are pleased that the government is launching this call for evidence. 

“It is the right time to consider how we protect all consumers, regardless of an accommodation owner’s business model, and level the playing-field between traditional business and those on newer platforms.

“The call for evidence will help the government strike the right balance between achieving those aims, yet avoiding imposing disproportionate new burdens or costs on small businesses.

“We will be playing a constructive role in helping the government develop a proportionate solution.”

Merilee Karr, chair of the Short Term Accommodation Association, said: “Short term and holiday rentals play an increasingly important role in the English tourism economy by contributing significant numbers of jobs in local communities and generating valuable sources of income for local homeowners and businesses.

“Any new regulatory solution should recognise this contribution and seek to support the industry as an important part of the wider UK tourism sector.” 

The commitment to consult on tourist accommodation was first made in the government’s Tourism Recovery Plan published a year ago.

A joint Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport and Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities statement said: “We have already taken action to give communities greater ability to manage the impact that second homes can have in some locations. These include closing tax loopholes, introducing higher stamp duty and permitting councils to apply higher council tax on second homes.”

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