Hundreds of Westminster residents under investigation over short-term lets abuse
MP urges Government to force all residents to notify council when they rent flats out
31 March, 2017 — By Alina Polianskaya
Karen Buck MP
KAREN Buck has called for new rules that would force all residents who want to short-term let their home to tell the local authority first.
The MP for Westminster North introduced the new bill in parliament last week after residents complained about homes being turned into hotels.
She urged the govern- ment to bring in an “online notification system” that requires people to register the property they wish to let, so local authorities can see which dates it is being let out for.
“In terms of potential breaches of the law, my borough is currently investigating more than 1,100 properties believed to have breached the 90-night limit,” Ms Buck said.
Current rules allow people to let out their home while they are away, or a spare room, for 90 days without permission, to earn a little extra cash. But it is believed that many are turning this into a business and renting out their properties for much longer than the permitted time.
As things stand, this is very difficult and time- consuming for local authorities to prove, according to Ms Buck, as there is no register of homes being let out.
To find those breaking the rules, council officers have to spend a lot of time trawling through lettings websites and rely heavily on reports from members of the public, she added.
On lettings sites such as Airbnb, the number of whole properties being let, as opposed to rooms, is increasing, and the number of those listing multiple properties is also going up. With short-term lets bring-ing in more money, it is feared the system is being treated as a business by more and more people.
Ms Buck told the Commons: “Short lets can bring in up to three times the income of more traditional flat rentals: £1,800 a week, on average, for a two-bedroom flat, as opposed to £620 a week for a traditional assured short-hold tenancy, according to Westminster Council.
“Where this all began for me was the number of constituents coming to raise concerns about the impact of their communities becoming an unofficial part of the hospitality industry.
“One constituent wrote to me to say: ‘We are a single house in Bayswater, six flats, and we manage ourselves. All the flats but one, ours, are now non- owner-occupied. A few weeks ago it became obvious that one flat was renting on Airbnb, and I’m fairly sure had broken the 90-day limit. This is technically in breach of the terms of our leases, which have that ‘single private use’ clause in them, but more than that I really hate the idea of our house turn- ing into a hotel, our front door key in strangers’ hands. And I’m fairly sure it breaches the terms of our buildings insurance, which is a bit scary’.”
Last December, Airbnb announced that they would prevent people from listing whole properties in Lon- don for more than 90 days without consent from their council. But Ms Buck said there are still other short- term lettings sites yet to follow suit.
She added that she was all for encouraging people to make good use of their homes and earn extra cash, “but let us make sure that this does not intensify the housing crisis… and inflict misery on long- term residents who, to their shock, can find them- selves waking up in a hotel annexe, but after all the caretakers have gone home”.