Karen Buck

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The impact and management of short-let/Airbnb accommodation in Westminster

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With Airbnb booking up 130% in a year in London, and Westminster topping the list of boroughs with short-let accommodation, I’ve written to the council for more information on the local impact. I’m all for the ‘sharing economy’ but the sector needs managing and regulating too. 


 

09/08/2017

 

Stuart Love

Executive Director City Management and Communities

Westminster City Council

 

Dear Stuart,

The impact and management of short-let/Airbnb accommodation in Westminster

I am writing to you again regarding short-let accommodation in Westminster, and to ask what further steps the Council are planning to take to respond to the problems this rapidly growing sector poses in respect of loss of residential accommodation and the impact on neighbours and communities. We all agree that this part of the ‘sharing economy’ has advantages for home-owners and visitors alike, but it needs to be properly managed and breaches of the rules swiftly and effectively enforced.

You will no doubt be aware of the research published recently by Colliers International/Hotelschoool The Hague, which found that the number of nights booked in London via the Airbnb site rose by 130% last year, from 2 million to 4.62 million, equivalent to 12,900 bookings a day. The research also indicated that the number of properties listed rose by 57%, to 138,000 and over half were made by hosts with more than one listing. Westminster is the borough with the largest number of listings, with over 150,000 stays in 2016, and five boroughs (Westminster, Tower Hamlets, Camden, Kensington and Hackney) account for half of all Airbnb stays in London.

Last year, Westminster Council suggested that 3,000 whole properties were being advertised on short let sites- a figure which rose substantially after the Deregulation Act came into effect and could have risen substantially further more recently if the Colliers research is correct. Far from the original vision of the ‘sharing economy’ we know that this suggests an increasingly commercialised operation, with rental incomes vastly exceeding those charged for Assured Shorthold tenancies

In addition, it is now some months since Airbnb announced their own plans to enforce the 90-day maximum short-let rule. This was a welcome step, but as we know, there are a number of loopholes (scope for owners moving between lettings platforms; potential difficulties in tracking addresses), and the new research clearly suggests that the result has not been to reduce short-lets overall.

As you are also aware, there has been a number of complaints about the impact of short-let properties on neighbours, including those arising from all-night parties in Little Venice and elsewhere.

It would therefore be very helpful to know what the Council is doing to monitor the changing situation and what you consider to be the next steps in:

  • Ensuring compliance with the 90 day limit
  • Helping to make sure we do not see a continued loss of much needed residential accommodation
  • Tackling enforcement issues, from the use of short-lets for parties to routine concerns about noise, rubbish, security and breaches of lease and insurance provisions.
  • Establishing what additional contribution the short-let sector can make toward the cost of enforcement.

Could you therefore let me know:

  1. Does the Colliers research align with the Council’s own monitoring of in respect of the number of lettings over the past two years?
  2. Has Westminster updated the figure of 3,000 properties now largely/exclusively in the short-let sector? Does the council have any means of monitoring occupancy levels?
  3. How many breaches of the 90- day lettings limit were a) reported b) investigated c) resulted in action in each of the last two years, and how many such files are currently open?
  4. Have there been any properties in the social rented sector a) reported b) found to be used for short-let purposes in the last two years?
  5. What steps are being taken to ensure that leasehold properties within CWH blocks are not being let in such as to compromise the lease or insurance arrangements?
  6. On how many occasions have complaints been receiving regarding noise, nuisance or anti-social behaviour and have any actions been taken with Airbnb or other lettings platforms as a result?
  7. What is the estimated net cost to the council of monitoring and enforcement of short let accommodation in the current financial year?

Thank you very much for your assistance and I look forward to hearing from you.

Best wishes

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Karen Buck

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