Airbnb is launching a major crackdown on illegal listings in London, banning hosts from renting out their properties for more than the 90-day legal limit.
Anyone who wants to rent out a property they own (through Airbnb or elsewhere) can do so for up to three months, thanks to rules brought in in 2015. If they want to rent it out for longer, then they need planning permission — but in practice, there was no real way local councils could enforce this rule.
This led to fears that unscrupulous landlords were using Airbnb as a way to sidestep regulations and planning rules — in turn reducing the housing stock available to ordinary Londoners.
In August 2016, a BuzzFeed investigation found that a third of London properties listed on Airbnb appeared to be owned by professional landlords rather than the regular home-owners the company likes to tout, and that Airbnb told a host to ignore the legal limits on how long they could rent their property for.
But that should no longer be possible. In changes announced Thursday, Airbnb said it will require proof of permission from the council from anyone who wishes to rent a property out in London for more than 90 days.
“Today, we are announcing a change to our platform that will introduce new and automated limits to help ensure entire home listings in London are not shared for more than 90 days, unless hosts confirm they have the required permission to share their space more frequently,” it wrote. “This will make it easier for hosts in London to act in the best interests of everyone in the city.”
Tom Copley, A London Assembly member and housing spokesperson, hailed the news. “We knew that short term lettings sites had been abused by professional landlords, we talked to Airbnb, and they have listened,” he said in a statement.
“Flawed legislation from the previous government has seen some landlords effectively turning their properties into hotels without planning permission. With local authorities lacking the necessary resources to enforce the 90 day limit on short term lettings we needed Airbnb and other operators to step in and help. It’s fantastic that Airbnb has responded to thee concerns. This action could help ensure London gains the economics benefits of tourism that Airbnb creates without putting pressure on our housing supply.”
Airbnb has come under pressure from authorities around the world concerned about regulation and housing stock. It is currently suing New York over a law on home rentals, and Paris raided illegal listings in early 2016 as part of a crackdown.
A similar move is being introduced in Amsterdam, The Wall Street Journal reports, which has a 60-day limit.