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Landlords encouraged to break short-term letting laws

3 minutes

Alice Sanderson, February 26, 2019

A BBC investigation has found that landlords in London are being encouraged to break strict short-term letting laws by property management companies.

90-Day Limit

In January 2017, Airbnb introduced a limit on listings of ‘entire homes’, which means that a property in Greater London cannot be let out on Airbnb for more than 90 days of occupied nights per year. This does not apply to people wishing to let an individual room.

This was introduced to legalise short-term lets in London. Without this rule, technically homeowners would need to apply for planning permission before they can conduct short or holiday lets in their home. If they wish to let their home for more than 90 days they will require planning permission to do so.

Airbnb’s software stops anyone from renting out short-term lets for longer than 90 days using an inbuilt counter. This counter begins as soon as the property is listed.

However, an investigation by the BBC has secretly recorded firms explaining ways around this, such as making a listing look new by using different photos.

Recorded breaking the law

Recordings included one from a senior manager at Hostmaker, one of the larger management companies for short-term rentals, who explained how landlords could get around the law.

She said “We do a new listing for you. We delist this one, start from scratch again. We will do fresh photos.

If you use existing photographs, Airbnb’s algorithm tracks it as the same property. We do everything new. And then your 90-day ticker will start from scratch again.”

An agent from another management company, Guestready, was also recorded saying “We’ll create another listing for you and they wont even know. It’s not that you shouldn’t really do it, it’s just that everyone does it.”

Some management companies, such as the CEO of Cityrelay, Maxime Leufroy Murat, were secretly filmed offering alternate options to Airbnb in order to extend the 90 days.

He was filmed saying “If you want to stop at 90 days, we can stop at 90 days. If you want to go above, we can help you go above.

We will never do more than 90 days on Airbnb – but you will get bookings from bookings.com, HomeAway, TripAdvisor. It might be 180 days in the end. 200 days”

Response

Hostmaker, one of the firms recorded, said that they are committed to complying with regulations and will “immediately conduct a full internal investigation.”

Cityrelay said in response “If out clients want to rent their property on short lets for over 90 days per calendar year, we explain to them they would need to seek planning permission.”

Guestready provided no response to BBC news when approached for a comment.

Karen Buck, MP for Westminster North, has campaigned for greater regulation of short-terms lets and described the footage as “absolutely shocking.”

She added: “It undermines everything we were told about how short-let accommodation would work and it’s really deeply dispiriting.”

Airbnb responded to the BBC saying that had a specialist team to avoid such attempts to defraud the system, and they would not tolerate this rulebreaking.

First4Lawyers

Andrew Cullwick, spokesperson for First4Lawyers says “It is very disappointing to see that there are management companies out there who are willing to not only help landlords to flout short-term letting laws, but also actively encourage them to do so.

The law is there for a reason, and there are alternate options to the 90-day rule such as letting out a single room or letting out your house on a long-term let, there is no need to break to the rules.”


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