Short-term Holiday Lets - Question

– in the House of Lords at 2:53 pm on 24th February 2020.

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Photo of Baroness Gardner of Parkes Baroness Gardner of Parkes Conservative 2:53 pm, 24th February 2020

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to discuss with local authorities the steps required to address any issues caused by short-term holiday lets.

Photo of Baroness Gardner of Parkes Baroness Gardner of Parkes Conservative

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper and declare my interests as listed in the register.

Photo of The Earl of Courtown The Earl of Courtown Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords)

My Lords, government officials meet their counterparts in local authorities regularly and short-term letting is raised through those channels. I am not aware of any specific recent request from a local authority to discuss this issue with any of my ministerial colleagues but the Government remain open to such a discussion. Local authorities already have a number of powers to protect those renting on a short-term basis and their neighbours alike.

Photo of Baroness Gardner of Parkes Baroness Gardner of Parkes Conservative

I thank the Minister for that Answer. Is he aware of the concern of the Mayor of London about the great loss of permanent or long-term accommodation for people who want to live, or do live, in London? Now, there is the danger that your property can be taken over at any time. We want to introduce a much fairer system. Local councils should be consulted on this as they know what to do and have done it in the past.

Photo of The Earl of Courtown The Earl of Courtown Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords)

My Lords, I am aware of concerns raised by different parties about short-term lets. My noble friend mentioned local authorities. As I said earlier, we are open to discussing measures that could be taken to improve enforcement with local authorities in London or elsewhere, and with the platforms themselves. However, we do not want to place unnecessary regulatory burdens on households in doing so.

Photo of Lord Kennedy of Southwark Lord Kennedy of Southwark Opposition Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government), Shadow Spokesperson (Housing)

My Lords, I refer the House to my registered interest as vice-president of the Local Government Association. I thank the noble Viscount, Lord Younger of Leckie, for his work in the department; I am pleased that he was made a member of the Government. The noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes, has been assiduous in raising this issue. Over many years, the Government have been equally consistent in not addressing her concerns. Why will they not deal this issue? All we get from them is, “We’ve got the necessary powers”. It is just not good enough.

Photo of The Earl of Courtown The Earl of Courtown Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords)

My Lords, I should draw attention to the great work that my noble friend Lord Younger did in his role in the department. It is great, though, to have him back in the Whips’ Office.

The noble Lord was basically asking about regulation of the sector. As I said earlier, we do not have any plans to regulate the short-let market. Protection of residents and tourists is paramount, which is why we are working with the Short Term Accommodation Association to raise standards. The sharing economy creates wealth—we want to encourage it, not curtail it.

Photo of Lord Best Lord Best Crossbench

My Lords, I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, for persisting with this issue, which is now topical; we are all beginning to realise its great significance. The Minister will know that the Government plan to introduce a regulator for estate agents, letting agents and managing agents. At the moment, it will not regulate bodies such as Airbnb, which organise these very short-term lettings, but it would not take much to add them to the new regulatory arrangements coming down the pipeline. Would that not be a sensible thing to do?

Photo of The Earl of Courtown The Earl of Courtown Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords)

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Best, chaired the working group on the regulation of property agents. It has reported and the Government are considering its response. As he said, the scope of the working group’s proposed new regulator extends only to property agents. As agreed with Ministers in the department, this excludes short-let platforms and hosts. We will consider these issues of scope when announcing next steps in response to the report.

Photo of Lord Tope Lord Tope Liberal Democrat

My Lords, I declare an interest as co-president of London Councils—and, incidentally, yet another vice-president of the Local Government Association. I am sure that London councils and many other local authorities will be only too willing to speak with the Minister and his colleagues about this increasingly difficult issue, which is affecting not just local authorities but many local residents. Does the Minister understand that it is extremely resource-intensive for local authorities to gather the evidence necessary to bring successful prosecutions proving that a property has been let out every night for 91 or more successive occasions? That is why there are so few prosecutions and why this problem is growing in many towns, cities and resorts throughout the country.

Photo of The Earl of Courtown The Earl of Courtown Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords)

The noble Lord refers to the 90-day limit, which applies only to London. The department met with Airbnb in July last year to discuss its support for the Mayor of London’s call for a registration scheme and whether it could support continued efforts around voluntary initiatives. The department also met with STAA, the industry group, in July to discuss its response to the Mayor of London’s call, its support for a roundtable with Westminster council and for a sector-wide roundtable once further progress is made.