BHA responds to Report on London Life by Airbnb

The British Hospitality Association (BHA) welcomes the opportunities the sharing economy brings to owners letting their homes from time to time but is concerned about the lack of transparency of data from home sharing websites and the ‘illegal hotels’ using such platforms to circumvent regulations and tax.

‘Sharing’ has become big business with ‘hosts’ acting as ‘landlords’ in all but name. The difference between rents charged for long-term compared to short-term lets is extremely high, creating strong economic incentives for short-term letting. Single owners in London let multiple properties and are able to operate with minimal overheads by avoiding health and safety, food safety and planning regulations.

There is little data available from online platforms. In London it is estimated that last year up to 39.8% of Airbnb hosts were letting more than one property, with some letting as many as a hundred but figures are not available from the home sharing websites themselves.

The BHA is calling for greater transparency of these intermediary websites, regulation and enforcement of health and safety and food standards, as well as compliance with the maximum 90 days a year letting allowed in London, without planning permission. The BHA proposes that platforms restrict hosts from letting beyond 90 days and notify the relevant authorities (HMRC, local government) of hosts letting entire or multiple properties.

The BHA has set out 6 questions that it believes would support greater transparency and provide a more robust assessment of the impact of intermediary websites such as Airbnb on tourism, tax, housing and communities in London.

  • Of a total of Airbnb’s 24,100 London hosts, how many last year rented more than one property and how many multiple landlords operated more than one property or a portfolio of accommodation via this intermediary website?
  • What is the impact of sharing accommodation sites like Airbnb on prices of rental stock in London?
  • How much did Airbnb’s top 100 hosts earn last year?
  • How many entire properties on Airbnb in London were let for more than 90 days last year?
  • Enforcement of health and safety regulations is essential to protect guests. Will platforms provide details of properties available for short lettings so that inspections, such as fire safety, can be more easily carried out?
  • Will the extended power of HMRC to request information from intermediaries such as home sharing platforms present an opportunity for greater transparency on the part of platforms?
  • If 29% of Airbnb guests are businesses, what compliance does Airbnb provide for sustainable supply chain and travel security?
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