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Government announces review of Holiday Lets

The UK government has announced a review into the effect of short-term holiday lettings sector with the aim to improve the holiday letting market and in particular for those living in popular tourism destinations.

The scheme aims to address issues arising from increases in short-term and holiday lets in England, and could involve physical checks of premises to ensure regulations in areas including health and safety, noise and anti-social behaviour are obeyed.

Further measures the Government is considering 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.

The government’s 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 (yet) 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.”

The Housing Minister, Rt. Hon Stuart Andrew, said: “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.”

Airbnb listing data showed a 33% increase in UK listings between 2017 and 2018 and the rise in the use of online platforms for short-term letting has brought many benefits - from an increase in the variety and availability of options to allowing people to make money from renting out spare rooms and properties.

Almost three quarters of people (72 per cent) told Airbnb in its green tourist report that the environmental benefits of home sharing played a role in their choice to travel using that platform. A separate report by the firm in 2018 said a typical UK host on their platform earns an average of £3,100 a year.

However the Government understands there can be an impact on housing supply and property pricing in these areas and there are fears caused by evidence of 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 amidst concerns.

The review will also consider the operation of the provisions in London under the Deregulation Act 2015 to allow for measures to be taken against anti-social behaviour, whilst allowing Londoners to rent out their homes.

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. In Northern Ireland tourist accommodation cannot be provided without a valid certificate issued by the national tourist board. Wales Responding to the announcement, has said it will aim to establish a statutory registration or licensing scheme. 

Ben Beadle Chief Executive of the National Residential Landlords Association, said: “The growth in holiday lets is a direct consequence of the Government’s attack on long-term rented housing. Tax policies actively discourage long-term investment in the private rented sector by landlords. With a Housing Secretary that wants to shrink the size of the sector, it is little wonder many landlords have jumped ship and into the holiday lets market.

“As a result, for many in holiday hot spots finding a long-term home to rent is all but impossible. With demand for such housing at a record high, all it is doing is increasing rents when tenants can least afford it. 

“The Government needs to end its anti-landlord attitude and develop pro-growth tax plans to help renters access the housing they urgently need.”  

Merilee Kerr, Chairperson of the Short Term Accommodation Association, (STAA) said: “The STAA is pleased to be able to contribute to the call for evidence on short-term lets and holiday accommodation in England, announced today. 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. As an industry we look forward to working with DCMS to ensure that a simple, cost-effective regulatory solution is found, which takes into account the needs and benefits to communities, and supports owners to rent out properties that would otherwise sit empty. We are glad to hear that the UK Government is committed to a solution which gets the balance right, and we look forward to sharing our insights and thoughts on practical solutions with policymakers.”

Note: The call for evidence during this review period will run for 12 weeks.

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