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Sunday, 22 July 2018

Short term letting and gesture politics

We have been dealing with the problems created by and drawing attention to the problems created by unregulated short term letting since 2014.

We have now moved to within a few months of elections and surprisingly politicians have discovered  an interest in the subject.

This has resulted in a debate in full council the minutes of which are shown below:

On a motion from Councillor Joe Rayment, seconded by Councillor Robin Moss, it was RESOLVED that Council notes:

1. Home-sharing services are often attractive to tourists and they provide direct income to host households.  However, regulation has been slow to keep up with the growth in these services and the impact they have on both the housing market and on amenity issues for residents;

2. In Bath and North East Somerset, we are experiencing a housing crisis, yet at the same time, properties are being removed from the private rental market as the earnings from short-term lettings can prove lucrative to landlords;

3. The difficulty in obtaining accurate figures around short-term lettings as there is no requirement to notify the Council of an intention to use a property in this way. 

4. A report by Tom Copley (London Assembly Member) highlights recent changes to legislation allowing the short-term letting of whole residential properties for up to 90 days in a calendar year in London but that the report also identifies a need for additional measures to enable London authorities to investigate and effectively enforce the new legislation.

5. The BANES Visitor Accommodation Study which this Council has commissioned to help provide evidence for the Local Plan includes considering the extent of and growth in short-term holiday lets and the implications and problems of short-term lets in relation to, for example, both the housing stock and the operation of other forms of visitor accommodation.

6. The Leader of Council has written to the Minister asking for a new use class to be introduced for short-term lets so that they are differentiated from dwelling houses.

7. The owners of properties available for short-term lets for up to 140 nights per year are liable for Council tax.

8. The Planning, Housing & Economic Development Policy Development & Scrutiny Panel is due to discuss short term holiday lets at its September meeting, which will provide an additional opportunity for public engagement and evidence gathering. Council believes that:

9. There is a need to find effective solutions which allow legitimate home-sharing to continue while at the same time addressing the widespread concern about the growing professionalised sector.

10.Bath & North East Somerset should be able to benefit from a change in legislation in the way that London has, and that, at the same time, the lessons should be learnt from the London experience with additional measures and resources to support enforcement of any new law.

11.There isn’t a level playing field when hoteliers and registered B&Bs running legitimate businesses must comply with health and safety rules and licensing rules and contribute to the Council funds with business rate payments whilst 'Short Term Lets' do not.

12.This discrepancy could have implications on the health and safety grounds.

13.The increase in Party Houses is having a detrimental impact on communities.

14.Residential properties are lost to the tourist industry when they are badly needed for families. Council agrees therefore to ask the Leader of Council to: 15.Continue discussions with the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government asking for:

a. A change in the law around short-term lets, limiting the short-term letting of whole residential properties to 90 days in a calendar year;

b. Other legislative measures such as a change to the use classes order, to make short-term holiday lets its own specific use class so that they are differentiated from dwelling houses;

c. The resources and tools needed to ensure that the costs of implementing any new legislation do not fall on Council taxpayers and to enable effective enforcement including, but not limited to, the introduction of a requirement that short-term lettings hosts must register with the Local Authority and that home-sharing platforms must share details of property owners suspected of breaching any new requirements;

d. Support with the creation of an ombudsman by the home-sharing platforms paid for by the industry to address home-sharing fraud, help with enforcement, resolve disputes and investigate complaints.

e. Assurances that the costs of implementing any new legislation do not fall on Council taxpayers;

f. Tools to enable effective enforcement such as the introduction of a requirement that short-term lettings hosts must register with the local authority and that home-sharing platforms must share details of property owners suspected of breaching any new requirements;

g. The introduction of a licensing and registration scheme to enable effective monitoring and control of anti-social behaviour and the use of enforcement powers where appropriate;

h. The same regulatory framework for short-term lets and other forms of visitor accommodation;

i. Any future Tourism Levy to apply to short-term lettings;

j. An extension to the defined exemptions for “sole or main residence” within the Housing Act 2004 to include properties wholly used as shortterms holiday lets, thus enabling them to be subject to a licencing scheme.

16. Write to Housing Associations asking them to remind their tenants that they must not sub-let their homes.

[Notes; 1. The underlined wording in resolutions 2, 7 (‘available’), 11-14, 15, 15b and 15e-i above was proposed by Councillor Tim Warren, and accepted into the substantive motion by the mover and seconder of the motion. 2. The underlined wording in resolution 7 (‘nights’) was proposed by Councillor Dine Romero and accepted into the substantive motion by the mover and seconder of the motion. 3. The underlined wording in resolutions 8 and 15j was proposed by Councillor Will Sandry and accepted into the substantive motion by the mover and seconder of the motion. 4. The above resolutions were carried with one Councillor abstaining (Councillor Lin Patterson) and all other Councillors voting in favour.]

27  MOTION FROM THE LIBERAL DEMOCRAT GROUP - UNREGULATED SHORT TERM HOLIDAY LETS

Following a full debate on this issue on the previous item on the agenda, Councillor Will Sandry withdrew this motion.

While we welcome this sudden interest in what has been a major problem for residents for many years and while this discussion represents a very useful summary of the current position we cannot help but reflect that had they addressed  the issues when we and others raised them we might have made more progress in getting central government to act.

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