STAA calls for clarification over UK government lockdown grants

UK: The Short Term Accommodation Association (STAA) has called on the government and local authorities to make sure that short-term rental businesses are explicitly included in the latest lockdown grant scheme for retail, leisure and hospitality businesses.

STAA says that last year, many companies in the short-term rental sector had their grant applications refused, due to technicalities over whether or not they could be classified as hospitality businesses.

This meant that legitimate businesses missed out on vital funding to compensate for the loss of business they experienced when they were unable to operate, or were operating under massively reduced demand, due to restrictions limiting trading to essential stays only.

With the prospect of several weeks or months ahead without the ability to earn income because of the explicit restrictions on travel and inability to accept bookings, many small companies across the country need grant funding to enable them to survive until the market is able to open up again.

The STAA believes that any business which derives the majority of its revenue from managing short-term rentals should be considered a hospitality business and should qualify for the grant scheme. This should apply regardless of whether a company is operating out of an office or a high street outlet. Previously, eligibility was determined on the basis of what business rates are paid on the property where the guest stays, and, therefore, professional operators were excluded. Many property management companies were refused grants designed for hospitality companies because the premises that they occupy aren’t actually listed as hospitality and retail premises.

Merilee Karr, chair of the STAA and CEO of UnderTheDoormat, said: “Whilst we recognise the need to initiate a national lockdown to help stem the spread of COVID-19 and welcome the Chancellor’s announcement of a new grant scheme, it is imperative that, this time, legitimate businesses do not miss out again on funding which could make or break their futures when the restrictions to trading explicitly include our sector.”

“Everyone knows that short-term rental property management companies are an important part of the hospitality sector yet, despite this, the Government guidance implemented by Local Authorities last year led to some of our members failing to get the grants or getting significantly reduced support. We cannot have a repeat of this situation now so the STAA would like the Government and Local Authorities to make it absolutely clear that short-term rental businesses are included in this latest round of grants. The Government has issued clarification regarding hotels and B&Bs but has not included short-term rental properties in that and, because the grants are awarded at the discretion of Local Authorities, it can lead to a situation where short-term rental companies could struggle to access grant funding. All we are asking for is a level playing field across the whole of the hospitality sector,” she added.

“The short-term accommodation sector will help the UK economy recover more quickly post-COVID, by creating jobs, driving custom into the local communities in which properties are located and providing opportunities for property owners to earn additional income when they aren’t using their homes,” concluded Karr.

It is estimated that short-term rental businesses make up around 10 per cent of the UK’s entire accommodation supply.

At the end of last year, the STAA, along with its members, set up the Trusted Stays initiative to support government and NHS workers needing accommodation during the second wave of the virus and provide a commercial route to bookings where demand might otherwise be lower in restricted areas. This scheme has expanded and now includes more than 1,000 properties across the UK.