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Camden Council urged to get tough on AirBNB lets

Nature of neighbourhoods is changing, campaigners warn

08 March, 2018 — By Tom Foot

Danny Beales

HOUSING chiefs have been urged to introduce a registration scheme for property owners who use short-let deals to turn their homes into unofficial hotels.

Campaigners in Bloomsbury say an “epidemic” of Airbnb-style bookings is changing the character of the neighbourhood and taking much-needed homes out of the rental market. “Exemption zones” are now being considered at the Town Hall.

Properties in hotspots in Camden are routinely marketed to tourists at a much higher rate than landlords would get by bringing in longer-stay private tenants. Ricci De Freitas, from the Marchmont Association, said a 90-day limit on the use of properties for holiday lets was being abused.

There had been a rise in complaints of “noise nuisance” and the “comings and goings of strangers at all hours of day and night”. A recent council planning report said there had been only 73 complaints around Airbnb-style rentals in the past year, but the Marchmont Association believes “this is the tip of the iceberg”.

Kensington and Chelsea Council is considering a system where anyone using a house or flat for short lets has to apply for a licence. Westminster North MP Karen Buck is promoting a Short and Holiday-Let Acc­ommodation Bill which would make notifying local authorities mandatory.

Mr De Freitas said: “Although it is early days for the implementation of this policy, it might be a good time for Camden to run a parallel pilot in the worst-affected areas, which I understand to be that part of the borough lying south of Euston Road.” Internet sites such as Airbnb, which enable landlords to advertise their homes to tourists looking for cheaper alternatives to expensive hotels, have mushroomed in popularity over the last five years.

The Marchmont Association has asked Camden to mount “a public-awareness campaign” and to “make it easier for residents to complain about suspected short-lets”. An enforcement unit could be set up, funded through registration fees and charges from the licensing regime, to investigate residents’ complaints, it has suggested.

Ernest James, a former councillor who lives in Belsize Park, said: “It’s not just down in Bloomsbury, it’s across the whole borough. We’ve bought the freehold for our place and we did not buy it with the intention it should become part of the hospitality industry. It’s often unlawful, it’s usually sub-tenants of leaseholders. But the agents don’t give a damn. There are a lot of people who are really pissed off about this.”

Labour regeneration chief Councillor Danny Beales said: “We are very concerned about the growing problem of unauthorised short-term lets in Camden. We are lobbying at a national level for changes which will make it easier for us to tackle this issue in an effective way. We are exploring the potential role for exemption zones, or a night-time visitor levy to provide resources needed to deal with the costs of short-term lets.”

He added: “The council has already shown success in tackling the issue. It played a proactive role in negotiating with Airbnb to impose the 90-day limit on their website. We are developing an engagement strategy, including working with Airbnb and other letting sites, and are sharing experiences across councils in the inner London area.”

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