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By Graham Norwood

Writer, Estate Agent Today

Graham Awards


Industry Views - Airbnb Crackdown - this time it's not just Michael Gove...

It’s tempting to think that Michael Gove’s proposed clampdown on Airbnb-style short lets is a uniquely British form of small-mindedness, part of the current government’s haphazard approach to housing policy.

It has a look of style over substance, as with many of the government’s policies right now.

Housing Secretary Gove says he’s giving councils power to control future short-term lets by making them subject to planning consent, while a mandatory national register will give local authorities information on whether short lets are as damaging to the local housing landscape as opponents claim.


Meanwhile existing homeowners will be given retrospective consent to let out their own main or sole home but only for up to 90 nights throughout a year.

Yet this sort of interference in the short let market is not unique and indeed is less draconian than many other parts of the world.

Look at Spain.  The Canaries, for example, is recruiting 35 inspectors to police new short let controls coming in later this year - new-build properties will be barred from accommodating short lets while existing owners will need a permit to let, including (wait for this) support from their neighbours.  Barcelona already has 70 such inspectors while Madrid has a rather feeble-sounding eight.

Meanwhile in Germany - where many laws are heavily devolved to regions - short let hosts in Munich have a limit of eight weeks per year beyond which they require council permits, while in Stuttgart it’s 10 weeks.

Berlin has had various regulations for many years: currently an entire property can be short let for no more than 90 nights in a year, but that requires host registration and a hefty fee.

Beefed up enforcement

Amsterdam - which has made moves to deter tourist numbers in recent years - there’s a 30-night annual limit while most other Netherlands cities have 60-night rules.

And then, of course, there’s New York. Officially the city has long had regulations effectively outlawing short lets, but this was rarely - some say never - enforced until the passage of Local Law 18, which strengthened existing legislation, beefed up enforcement and required mandatory host registration. 

NY short let registrations plummeted from approximately 13,500 listings in August last year to under 3,000 in December. Airbnb says many un-registered hosts now use under-the-radar websites for letting. Meanwhile hotels have reported record high bookings, confirming what many believed was a campaign to satisfy the corporate hotel lobby rather than pacify neighbours upset at proliferating short lets.

Australia is curbing short lets too, most vociferously in Western Australia which is introducing limits similar to those proposed here by Gove. It wants new short lets to require planning consent, some exemptions for long-standing existing hosts, and a 90-night limit.

The Italian city of Florence - by density, the country’s most heavily touristic city - has banned new short-term listings by property owners in its historic centre, and is offering three years of tax breaks to landlords of existing short lets if they switch to ordinary long-term letting.

In Iceland you can let out your home, or part thereof, for no more than 90 nights per year and there is an annual income cap on how much a host can receive. In Tokyo - where the annual limit is 180 nights - hosts must either live and remain in the property that’s let, or have an administrator employed to do the same.

High-charging hotels

In France the annual limit is 120 nights and in some cases council approval is required; in San Francisco there’s a 90-night limit and strict compliance rules, while in Canada - particularly some parts of Quebec, including Montreal - there are selective complete bans on short lets.

I could go on, because almost all western countries now have restrictions. You get the picture, I’m sure.

Despite the fact that crackdowns are so ubiquitous, it still looks to me like an unjustified interference in the rights of a property owner. Just as important, it seems like a ‘spoil sport’ tactic by government to favour high-charging hotels rather than allowing tourists to have a more convenient lower cost alternative.

So while the UK’s short let clampdown pledged by Gove and his government looks of a piece with the rest of their restrictions on other forms of landlordism, on this occasion it’s part of a bigger global picture.

To my uncharitable eye it looks as if all those other countries - just like Britain - have done too little to build enough new homes and are as a result making existing owners pay the price by not being allowed to short let.

Politicians: don’t you just love them?


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