Mayor calls for registration system to enforce short-term letting law

23 April 2019
  • Since 2015 the law has capped short-term lets in London at a total of 90 nights per year, which helps protect long-term rented housing
  • However the law is near-impossible for councils to enforce, and only Airbnb has implemented a voluntary cap following City Hall’s call 
  • Sadiq believes time has come for a light-touch registration system so the 90-day rule can be enforced and long-term rented housing protected

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, is calling on Government to introduce a new registration system for anyone wishing to rent out a property for less than 90 days in a calendar year in London to help protect the capital’s housing for long-term residents.

In a letter to Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government James Brokenshire, co-signed by Airbnb and Camden, Islington, Hackney, Tower Hamlets, Westminster, and Kensington & Chelsea councils, the Mayor outlined his support for short-term lets, which offer additional accommodation for visitors to the capital and enable Londoners to meet new people and earn some extra money. 

However, the letter, also signed by London Councils – the local government association for the capital - makes clear the Mayor believes these benefits must be balanced with the need to protect long-term rented housing, and to ensure that neighbours of Londoners renting their properties short-term are not negatively affected by a high turnover of visitors. 

London is one of the UK’s top destinations for guests travelling with Airbnb. Over the past year* approximately 2,200,000 guests have stayed at 75,700 listings in the capital, generating £1.3 billion from guests and hosts, and encouraging visitors to different corners of the city as well as the classic tourist areas.

However, there are many accommodation platforms in the capital and concerns have been raised by Londoners that neighbours’ homes are being let out beyond the legal 90 night limit, with some areas in central London experiencing a particularly high turnover of guests.

After being elected, the Mayor called on the industry to self-regulate, including by voluntarily capping the number of nights per year a host can let out their home in line with the current law. Despite continued discussions between City Hall and the industry, however, Airbnb is currently the only platform to have voluntarily implemented the cap limit on its platform, including a zero tolerance approach to those that try to get around it.

Homeaway and TripAdvisor have today committed to introducing a cap in the future. With a lack of available data on short-term lettings in London, councils have found it difficult to enforce the current legislation. 

The Mayor believes that a simple, mandatory registration system for anyone wishing to rent out a property for short term let is now necessary in London, to provide local authorities with the data they need to enforce the 90-day rule effectively.

Alongside Airbnb and the council co-signatories, he is urging ministers to meet with them and develop detailed plans about how this approach could work. Signatories to the letter believe the system must be simple to use, low or no cost to the host, and function as one single database that is accessible online and hosted by one organisation.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “Short-term lets are a benefit to visitors to London, and to Londoners themselves who want to earn a little extra money. But these benefits must be balanced with the need to protect long-term rented housing, and to make sure neighbours aren’t impacted by a high turnover of visitors. It is now time for the Government to work with us to develop a registration system of short-term lets, so local councils can make sure we get this balance right.”

The Mayor’s call comes as his Deputy Mayor for Housing & Residential Development, James Murray, today addresses the inaugural AGM of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Short-Lets Sector set up by Karen Buck, Labour MP for Westminster North, to offer a forum to discuss these issues. Karen is also already working with James to develop proposals for rent control powers that would help make private sector rents genuinely affordable to more Londoners.

Karen Buck, Labour MP for Westminster North, said; “I strongly welcome the Mayor’s initiative, coming on the day I am setting up an All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Short Let sector, to look at how we balance the competing interests involved. The accommodation ‘sharing economy’ brings many benefits but the law is open to abuse, leaving councils unable to enforce effectively and struggling to manage the impact of short lets on residential communities. Knowing who is actually letting out their properties helps get the balance right.”

Hadi Moussa, Airbnb Country Manager UK and Northern Europe, said: "Airbnb is built on the principle of making communities stronger and we are proud to lead our industry on working with policymakers to secure smart rules that work for everyone. A clear and simple registration system that applies to hosts on all platforms is good news for hosts and will help authorities get the information they need to regulate our industry effectively. We want to continue working together with leaders in the UK and across the world to ensure that the sustainable growth of home sharing is good news for everyone."

Cllr Darren Rodwell, London Councils’ Executive Member for Housing & Planning, said: “A registration system is an essential tool for strengthening boroughs’ regulatory powers over the short-term lets market. Robust data is crucial for providing boroughs with accurate information on how short-term lets are being used. Compulsory registration will help us to support local communities, protect housing stock, and take swift action against anti-social behaviour occurring in short-term lets.”

Notes to editors

* Between 1 July 2017 and 1 July 2018.

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