Holiday lets let-off as Labour fails to win cross-party support for crackdown

An attempt to set up an online registration scheme for Airbnbs and other short-term lets has failed after Labour councillors were unable to win the support of other political parties.

The attempt failed as councillors discussed the effects of holiday lets and short-term lets on the housing market in Brighton and Hove in response to a government consultation.

Brighton and Hove City Council is under pressure to build more homes.

Labour councillor Amanda Evans asked the council’s Tourism, Equalities, Communities and Culture Committee to support a proposal for the council to set up a registration scheme.

She also asked for a report outlining the options for an online registration service to be prepared for the committee’s meeting in January.

At the meeting yesterday (Thursday 15 September), Councillor Evans, who represents Queen’s Park ward, said that the roads between St James’s Street and the sea were “packed” with holiday lets.

She said: “We get lots of complaints from the legitimate tourist businesses that have to pay taxes and have to conform with all types of health and safety regulation – and short-term holiday lets don’t.

“It’s not just individuals letting out a room a couple of times a year. There are a lot of professionals involved with this now who are making a lot of money, not paying tax on it and harming our tourist industry as well.

“There are all kinds of reasons why it’s a problem. It causes misery and has a knock-on effect on our already crisis-hit housing market.”

Councillor Evans said that registration would help to address frustrations over the council’s lack of power to do something. She said that the council had to lobby the government for action.

Labour councillor Alan Robins, a former chair of the Tourism, Equalities, Communities and Culture Committee, spoke in support of a register. He said that it would enable operators to show that they had achieved some standard.

Councillor Robins was part of a panel some years ago that looked at the problems linked to holiday lets – and potential solutions.

He said: “There are people suffering at the hands of these things, people who can’t stay in their homes at the weekend, leaving their houses on Friday night and not coming back until Monday because they knew something would take over their lives.

“It’s been a problem for a long while in the city and we haven’t been able to get to grips with it. Let’s do what little we can to keep an eye on things.”

Green councillor Marianna Ebel said that she had experienced problems with two “party houses” but felt that the council had the “mechanisms” to take action.

She said: “The problem with a voluntary registration scheme is the worst offenders probably would not register and it would not give us any additional powers to follow up.

“I represent a quiet ward but we had problems with party houses. The residents got in touch with the environmental health team. I know it is tedious because they have to gather evidence and maintain an incident log.

“Ultimately, we managed to end these two buildings being rented out as holiday homes.”

Green councillor Martin Osborne, who co-chairs the committee, said that he supported the idea of a registration scheme but added that it should be a government-regulated national scheme.

He said: “In our response, we are saying we would like to go a lot further with a registration and licensing scheme and caps on the number of holiday lets in certain locations through planning rules.

“There is an HMO (house in multiple occupation) licensing scheme that works perfectly well. The government won’t have to do much to do this.”

Councillor Amanda Evans

Councillor Osborne said that the biggest operator in the holiday lets market, Airbnb, also supported the principle of a national licensing scheme.

Conservative councillor Samer Bagaeen voted with the Greens against the Labour proposals.

The committee agreed to back sending a response to the government’s consultation and to provide evidence about the problem.

The council’s response to the government consultation said: “Housing demand and rising private sector rents have an adverse effect on the affordability of housing in the city.

“The lack of affordable housing supply has an economic impact on our ability to retain lower-income working households and employment in the city across all sectors.

“With less available stock and the same (or increasing) numbers trying to access this, this will result in higher market rents being charged. We continue to see an increase in advertised rents across most sized properties.”

  1. Jane L Reply

    I wonder what on earth makes Amanda Evans believe these operators don’t pay tax. Does she have access to their HMRC records? They would be pretty stupid if they don’t pay the correct tax as bookings sites such as AirBnB don’t pay for bookings with bags of cash so HMRC can see all transactions from these businesses. As for not following the correct health and safety. I doubt this is the case and there is no evidece for this. The council already has mechanisms in place to address fire safety etc. As for taking up vsluable homes these properties compromise of about 1,000 properties in Brighton. Most are at the higher end of the housing stock and are not the kinds of properties that you would let to long term tenants. Perhaps the council should instead look at their city of sanctuary policy which encourages people to move to this city. In one year 1,000 Syrians, people from Hong Kong and Syria have moved to the City. The issue with housing stock is caused by population increase to the City and the council should have a policy of looking at all its policies such as letting drug addicts beg in the streets or camp in the city and ask whether these types of policies are attracting more and more people that require social housing to Brighton.

    • Nige Reply

      There’s a lot of flats in Brighton available on Airbnb. I have a friend who was evicted and the flat made into a short term let. I’m house hunting at the moment and was told by an agent that most flats sold in central Brighton the last couple of year were sold to Airbnb investors. Your assertion that Airbnb properties wouldn’t be available as rentals is codswallop.

      Your asserion that the council has mechanisms in place to address fire safety – more rubbish. If I buy a flat / house with 3+ berdrooms to rent out then I need a HMO licence. I buy the same property for Airbnb and I need nothing.

      Of course you don’t mention the other big problem with holiday lets – the noise and antisocial behaviour they often attract.

  2. Susie Reply

    The most telling line in this article is Conservative councillor voted with the Greens.

  3. Katy Reply

    Are we seeing a Conservative/Green coalition? They appear to have been voting together on quite a few things recently.
    Desperate bedfellows perhaps…
    The Greens have completely ignored getting the basics right across the city at the expense(to us taxpayers) of vanity projects like the low-traffic neighborhood in Hanover, whilst the Tories have nothing useful to say and only ever bleat on about coalitions.
    I suspect the voters of this city are looking forward to the next elections to vote them both out.

    • What Reply

      The green’s are tories that cycle.

    • Paul Temple Reply

      Whilst no fan of the Tories, (or Greens), the idea that they have any form of coalition. Lets see how many Green motions the Tories back at ETS next week. Will they be supporting the new A259 extended cycle lane – NO. Are they backing the proposed Hanover LTN – NO. They may vote very occasionally on minor issues with the Greens but politically could never be in a coalition. I just hope next election Labour say enough of this coalition with the Greens and understand the harm it does them.

    • Sam Reply

      Greens and Tories voted against for different reasons. Greens because this should be implemented at national level which makes sense, Brighton isn’t the only place to have this issue. Tories because they wan’t to protect their mates who are making a killing from these holiday lets.

  4. Adam Reply

    I hope more independents stand at the next local election because the partisan bickering of the standard parties is not working for the city. From Labour anti semites and green councillors living in France claiming expenses to those with a historic penchant for microwave abuse. The systemic failure of our local councillors to serve their constituents is plain for all to see.

  5. MegA Reply

    The Labour party has a long sorry history of demonising residential Landlords in this city. Most residential Landlords in this city are private individuals who have 1 or 2 other properties as their nest-egg, pension. HMRC does not consider this activity a business, it is considered an activity. Labour has never, ever, stated how they would help small-time private residential landlords in the city. They just bucket all residential landlords together and demonise them. No wonder people opt for Air BnB as an alternative – more lucrative and less complicated than offering longer-term rentals. All profits are taxable. Labour, you can’t have it both ways. Start by supporting private residential Landlords.

  6. MegA Reply

    “not paying tax on it” – that’s a downright lie

    • Jane L Reply

      £1.5Bn in taxes apparently into the UK economy according to the Governments own stats. That doesn’t count the extra tax raised by encouraging tourists to spend their money in restaurants, shops, beauty salons, bars and clubs in Brighton instead of sending them off to Spain because Brighton doesn’t want them.

  7. Robert Pattinson Reply

    Most of new builds lie half empty as its a way to get money into the UK from abroad.

  8. Technique Reply

    So typical of Labour and the Greens; don’t do as I do – do as I say…

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