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MP calls for tighter rules on short-term lets after ‘absolute surge of complaints’

Westminster North MP Karen Buck and councillors are set to meet the chief executive of Airbnb to discuss concerns

20 November, 2016 — By Alina Polianskaya

MP Karen Buck

A SHARP rise in short-term lets in Westminster has left many residents concerned about comm­un­ities being eroded, an MP says.

Westminster North MP Karen Buck said there has been “an absolute surge” of complaints since the government relaxed the rules on short-term lets last year, allowing people to rent out their homes for up to 90 nights without applying for licences.

Sites including Airbnb have left people feeling as if they live next to a hotel and this has raised safety fears. “We have new figures showing how much Airbnb lettings have grown,” said Ms Buck. “There has been an 80 per cent rise of short-lets in a year in Westminster.”

Ms Buck said she has received many complaints from people who had concerns about their safety as “people come and go all the time” so they did not know who has the keys to their building. There was also “a big rise in noise complaints”.

She added: “What is happening is there are blocks of flats being used semi-permanently for short-lets or people buying properties purely for that purpose, which is not meant to happen. In some cases it is a business. We are urging the government to tighten the rules where there is particularly high stress.”

In Marylebone as many as “one-in-20 properties is in the short-let industry”, she said. Marylebone High Street councillor Karen Scarborough said the issue was big in her ward, where residents complained of short-term letters ditching rubbish in the streets, disregarding collection times.

Cllr Scarborough who lives in Hyde Park ward, said the issue was a “nightmare” for residents: “In Somers Crescent, for example, a number of properties are being used like a hotel. There are people coming and going at all hours, suitcases being wheeled along disturbing residents and rubbish bags galore.”

Ms Buck and councillors are set to meet the chief executive of Airbnb to discuss concerns. These include being able to identify the properties that are breaking the rules.

“The problem is because a flat can be let for 90 days without permission it is much harder to find those being let for longer,” Ms Buck said. “It makes the task of enforcing the rules much more difficult.”

An Airbnb spokesman said: “The overwhelming majority of Airbnb hosts and guests are good neighbours and respectful travellers. Isolated incidents are incredibly rare and we take appropriate action on issues brought to our attention. We want to do everything we can to help our community members be good neighbours in the communities hosts call home, which is why we launched our Neighbour tool to help achieve that goal.”

A typical host on Airbnb in London earns £3,500 by sharing their space for 50 nights a year, he added.

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