Airbnb could face tighter rules amid concerns over London housing crisis


Airbnb could face tighter rules following concerns that it is exacerbating the housing crisis by reducing the stock of long-term rentals.

The company has been invited to a meeting with a representative from City Hall and boroughs organised by London Assembly member Tom Copley to discuss issues raised by short-term lettings legislation.

It follows concerns that Airbnb is driving up rents by allowing landlords to convert long-term rentals into lucrative holiday lets.

In a letter sent to MPs, London Mayor Sadiq Khan says that he has "concerns" that Airbnb is exacerbating the housing crisis by reducing the stock of long-term rentals and that people living near the website's properties are experiencing anti-social behaviour such as noise and rubbish pollution.

Mr Khan says that he "supports the right of people to benefit from renting out their homes for short periods", but adds that this "must be balanced against the need to ensure that Londoners are not adversely affected".

The letter says: "If boroughs are finding that the legislation needs to be revisited to make sure that we find a better way of balancing the benefits of the sharing economy with the protection of local residents and the retention of housing for long-term use, then I will be happy to work with them and discuss with Government whether any changes may be needed."

A spokesman for Mr Khan said: "The Mayor supports the right of Londoners to be able to benefit from renting out their homes for short periods and welcomes the fact that Airbnb helps make it cheaper and easier for people to visit London.

"However, these benefits must be balanced against the need to ensure Londoners are not adversely affected and London's housing supply is not lost through short-term bookings.

"Sadiq welcomes dialogue between London Boroughs and Airbnb about how existing legislation could better be enforced in the capital, and whether the legislation needs to be revisited."

Homeowners in the capital must apply for planning permission if their property is used for short lets of more than 90 days a year, but critics have accused Airbnb of not doing enough to enforce these rules.

Business, Innovation and Skills Committee chairman Iain Wright wrote a letter to Mr Khan in September highlighting the negative consequences of temporary lettings operations run by the likes of Airbnb, including its potential to drive up prices.

Mr Wright also said that "many landlords appear to be operating illegally" by letting properties for more than 90 days per year - after which they would require a special permit.

The European head of Airbnb has previously hit back at claims that the company is driving up property prices and helping to exacerbate London's housing crisis.

Olivier Gremillon, the managing director for Europe, Middle East and Africa at Airbnb, told the Press Association in September that short-term home rental sites like Airbnb are not to blame for the capital's housing crunch.

He said: "There have been a few studies done by academics which said, no it doesn't really increase the price of housing. There is a housing shortage in London (but) is it because of Airbnb? No. There are a lot of other reasons why prices are high."

Airbnb reported an 85% jump in guest arrivals to 1.6 million across the UK between June to August, compared to 860,000 over the same period last year.