New rules announced this week mean Londoners will soon be able to rent their homes on sites such as Airbnb without the risk of fines
Londoners will soon be able to legally let their homes through websites such as Airbnb, thanks to an amendment to the capital’s housing legislation currently going through parliament.
There are already thousands of homes in the capital advertised for short-term holiday lets, but technically the practice is illegal and residents face fines of up to £20,000 for failing to secure planning permission before doing so.
The decision to update the London-only law, announced on Monday, ends years of confusion over the practice. In a written statement, housing minister Brandon Lewis criticised the current legislation for being “outdated” and “inconsistently enforced”.
“We want to update these laws to help boost the sharing economy, in light of the popularity of websites like Airbnb and Onefinestay, to help people rent out their property on a short-term basis.” he said.
“It will provide income to householders who want to rent out their home – for example, if they themselves go on holiday.”
Under the updated law, homeowners will be able to let out their house, flat or spare rooms for up to three months a year.
The move was praised by Airbnb, who said the reforms will help locals meet the cost of living in one of the most expensive cities in the world. According to the site, which has hosted over 30 million guests since it launched in 2008, many UK hosts work in the creative industries and more than 40% are self-employed, freelance or part-time workers.
However, some London councils have opposed the changes, warning that it could turn some residential properties into hotels and disrupt neighbourhoods.
Westminster City Council have asked for the length of short term lets permitted to be reduced from three months to one. Cabinet member for sustainability, Cllr Heather Acton, said: “This is a step in the right direction, but it doesn’t go nearly far enough. This is not about being bureaucratic – it is about making sure housing in central London does not become a chain of default hotels with rooms rented out at exorbitant prices to the highest bidder.”
Others claim sites like Airbnb have a negative effect on the rental market, reducing the number of long-term homes available for locals, and pushing up rents in the process.
Airbnb has already faced legal battles in many cities around the world, with authorities putting increasing pressure on the site to ensure that hosts comply with local laws, as well as paying the correct taxes.
This article was written by Will Coldwell, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 10th February 2015 13.28 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010