Hotel industry fumes as UK prepares to legalize Airbnb in London

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Airbnb users have many options when they visit London, but they and their hosts are probably unaware that these short-term lets are often illegal. However, that’s about to change – much to the ire of the hotel industry.

On Monday, housing minister Brandon Lewis set out plans for short-term lets to be deregulated in London. A 42-year-old London law says that anyone wanting to rent out their home for less than 90 days must get planning permission to do so, or pay a £20,000 ($30,450) penalty per offence. The government now wants that law scrapped.

“We live in the 21st century, and London homeowners should be able to rent out their home for a short period without having to pay for a council permit. These laws … need to be updated for the internet age,” Lewis said in a statement.

However, the government would still restrict short-term letting to 90 days per calendar year or less, so that the properties don’t effectively become hotels. The properties also can’t be business premises, and councils will be able to apply for “small localized exemptions from the new flexibility, where there is a strong case to do so.”

I’d say it was very silly for London to have different rules from the rest of the country, regarding services such as Airbnb — so this move should be welcomed at least on that front. However, the hotel industry doesn’t quite see it that way.

The British Hospitality Association has been lobbying against these changes for quite some time and says it still has serious concerns about health and safety. In an emailed statement, Association policy director Jackie Grech said the relevant clause had been “hastily pushed through … without any concern for the consequences such as security, employment, housing shortages, anti-social behavior and the high quality reputation of tourism in the U.K.”

She added:

When the first claims come through, they could be serious injuries. It is possible to look out for the interests of community, customers and employees; the hospitality industry does this every day. These multi-billion dollar companies need to do the same and we are particularly concerned for small, family run establishments who have to compete with giant multi billion pound companies.

This all comes a few months after the publication of a U.K. government review of the so-called sharing economy, conducted by Debbie Wosskow, the CEO of home exchange platform Love Home Swap. Astonishingly, the review suggested that accommodation-sharing platforms should be less burdened with regulation.

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