Residents call for government action on Bath “party houses”

UK: Residents in the city of Bath in South West England are calling for the government to introduce new rules to stop the spread of ‘party houses’ appearing in quiet neighbourhoods in the city.

In a report published in The Times, properties that are being rented out for such purposes are a growing trend in Bath that are listed on short-term rental platforms like Airbnb.

According to the report, around 90 apartments in the city are currently being rented out by at least seven people, compared to a reported 48 properties in 2017, according to the Federation of Bath Residents’ Associations chairman Robin Kerr. 

In addition, around 1,500 smaller-scale apartments are being rented out as short-term rentals to tourists. A similar analysis in The Telegraph of the HomeAway and Airbnb websites also highlighted a rise in the number of short-term lets from 476 in 2016 to more than 1,450 this year.

Critics of short-term rental platforms like Airbnb say that they are reducing the number of affordable homes that would otherwise be available to residents.

In other European cities like Amsterdam, Airbnb has also been the subject of criticism from housing groups and authorities for supposedly increasing housing costs and fuelling disruption in quiet neighbourhoods due to the influx of tourists in popular tourist destinations.

Libby Purves, a columnist in The Times, herself called Airbnb “a monster that must be tamed”.

Now the government is facing growing calls to implement a compulsory statutory registration scheme to ensure property owners register their residential homes as short-term rentals. Local authorities currently have no power to shut down Airbnb properties that are considered rowdy since they do not hold official licences.

One proponent of further restrictions is David Wood, a Liberal Democrat councillor for the Mendip district of Bath, who told The Telegraph: “While many Airbnb’s are run responsibly, there are some that cause problems for their neighbours in terms of noise and rubbish.

“Because Airbnbs aren’t licensed, like many local authorities up and down the country, Bath & North East Somerset Council has no special powers to restrict them or deal with the problems they cause.

“We want to see the government change the rules on Airbnbs so they can be controlled better and we will be lobbying for this,” he added.

In response, Airbnb said there was “no evidence” that its guests were negatively contributing to rubbish being left in Bath.

A spokesperson for the firm told The Telegraph: “Airbnb is built on the principles of making communities stronger, and promoting healthy, sustainable travel.

“Guests using Airbnb generate less waste, reduce energy and water consumption, and generate fewer greenhouse gases than guests staying in big hotels, according to expert analysis.

“The majority of guests say they choose Airbnb to experience life like a local, 94 per cent of hosts say they incorporate green practices into hosting, and hosts typically provide guidance and house rules on matters like recycling, composting and waste disposal,” added the spokesperson.

In response to this story, pay-per-stay home-sharing insurance specialist GUARDHOG contacted ShortTermRentalz with the following statement:

GUARDHOG co-founder and CEO, Humphrey Bowles, said: “Bath is a historic, picturesque city so it’s not surprising that people across the world flock to visit and stay in home-sharing accommodation.

Undoubtedly home-sharing hosts have a role to play by setting house rules to manage rubbish and noise or banning rave-friendly one-night bookings.

However, the onus is really on those visiting Bath to remember that they are a guest in the community, as well as in somebody’s home. Therefore, they need to live like a local and treat the neighbourhood they’re visiting with the same respect as they do their own back home.

Bath has nearly 1,500 active listings on Airbnb which is great for the local economy. But for home-sharing to work for residents and guests, an environment of trust is essential, so we’re calling on all those involved to act responsibly and protect home-sharing for the millions of hosts and guests who do,” added Bowles.