MP fails in new bid to regulate short-lets

'Requiring all landlords to be registered in order to provide short-term lets would make recourse to justice easier for victims of crime'

Monday, 28th March — By Tom Foot

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Karen Buck MP

KAREN Buck has introduced draft legislation that aims to give councils more powers to manage properties used as “Airbnb” short-lets.

The Westminster North Labour MP said in her Ten-Minute Rule Bill that people who rent out homes through the service should sign up to a register so they can be properly monitored.

She said: “The short-let system has been abused by people who hire out flats for parties or other commercial enterprises, often unbeknown to the home-owners.

“Before the pandemic, Park West apartments close to Hyde Park had more rooms available for short-term letting than exist in the whole of the Ritz Hotel.

“The Ritz Hotel pays £2.27million in business rates annually.

“The combined council tax bill of the Park West apartments that we know are used for short-term lettings is £92,686.

“Here we are, seven years after the deregulation of the sector in London, five years after I last introduced a bill to encourage regulation, and with a generally deregulated sector in the rest of the country, but still no action from the government.

“We need a registration scheme so that everyone letting out their property in this way can be identified, and the minority with tenants with problematic behaviours can be held easily to account.

“Requiring all landlords to be registered in order to provide short-term lets would make recourse to justice easier for victims of crime.

“If the criminal landlord was not on the register, they would already be on the back foot.”

Ms Buck said the deregulation of the holiday market from 2015 had made it substantially easier to breach rules and get away with it.

She said there was more than before Covid-19 pandemic and that Westminster had “the highest proportion of entire homes listed on online short-lettings sites, currently standing at 13,039”.

She added: “To give praise where it is due, Airbnb and many short-let hosts made a very significant contrition during Covid and are now engaging over the Ukrainian refugee crisis, and I absolutely give them credit for doing that.

“No one is talking about banning short-lets.

“They can be a convenient way for people to make some extra income from living spaces they aren’t using, and boost the tourist economy. But I want hosts to be registered so councils can make sure this is done in a responsible manner which avoids some of the negative impacts experienced in Westminster and other communities.”

The city council Lab­our Group says that there is a particular problem with short-term lets in Park West, Queens Gardens, Porchester Square and Queensborough Terrace.

The opposition’s manifesto includes plans to increase inspections of Airbnb properties and to “examine ways to name and shame landlords breaking the rules on Airbnb”.

The bill was blocked by the Conservatives, as expected.

Christchurch Conservative MP Sir Christopher Chope said: “I do not oppose the right of Ms Buck to introduce a bill because I would defend that right to the utmost, but I wish to show solidarity with the people who are the targets of her bill, those small businesses that engage in providing much needed holiday and short-term let accommodation.

“Conservative members certainly do not intend to allow those businesses to be regulated in the way that she suggests,” he added.

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