London: A number of leading Airbnb management platforms have been caught on film explaining how they can help landlords in London bypass the UK’s strict short-term letting limits.
An investigative journalist from the BBC programme, Inside Out London, secretly recorded staff from firms such as Hostmaker, Cityrelay and GuestReady telling an undercover reporter how they can get around the city’s rules regarding how long a property can be rented out for.
The letting rules, as explained on Inside Out, stipulate that a property cannot be rented out via platforms such as Airbnb for more than 90 days a year unless they have been granted planning permission to do so.
However, the firms were filmed explaining how listings on Airbnb can be “juggled” to hide how many days a property has been rented out by de-listing them only to then create a new listing with updated pictures and effectively “start from scratch again”.
This action circumvents the algorithm that Airbnb uses to measure how many days a property has been rented out for during any given year.
Another tactic that staff from the management platforms say they use is to advertise properties on different letting sites as well as Airbnb, therefore hiding the true number of days that a property is been let out. One company suggested landlords can allow renters to stay for up to 200 days a year this way.
The practices uncovered by the BBC investigation were denigrated by both the Residential Landlords Association and housing campaigner and MP, Karen Buck, who reacted by describing the revelations as both “shocking” and “deeply dispiriting”. She added that it “undermines everything we were told about how short-let accommodation would work”.
In a statement, Hostmaker told the BBC that it complies with regulations and that it would undertake an internal investigation into the matter, while Cityrelay said it advises landlords they will need to get planning permission for rentals lasting more than 90 days.