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Greater regulation for Airbnb-style landlords may be needed, say MPs

With more Airbnb listings in this country than ever before, there is growing concern among MPs that the home sharing website and similar platforms may be putting holidaymakers at risk.

Homeowners, including landlords, who let out properties via holiday rental sites such as Airbnb do not face the same regulation as hotels and B&Bs, including fire safety regulations and other checks, and there is cause for concern among MPs that the lack of control in the short-term rentals sector is allowing unscrupulous businesses to pose as private owners.

A new report from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Tourism, Leisure and the Hospitality Industry, to be published this week, is expected to show evidence that a number of businesses are using holiday rental platforms to rent out properties, mainly because they do not enforce checks.

Gordon Marsden, chairman of the parliamentary group points out that there are thousands of properties listed on Airbnb across the UK, and yet local authorities and fire brigades are unaware of the location of many of these homes.

The Blackpool South MP said: “There is an image that this is a lot of happy, jolly people with a spare room trying to make some pin money.

“That’s true, but it’s also true that there seems to be systematic attempts to do block-booking in blocks of flats. That’s problematic.”

There is evidence that some hosts had multiple listings on Airbnb and other platforms, according to Marsden.

He continued: “They have their hands on a number of different properties and many of those are often in large tower blocks.”

“That suggests that sharing-economy platforms are increasingly being used to develop tourism accommodation businesses rather than simply renting a room on an ad hoc basis.

“Sadly, issues like the Grenfell inquiry have shone a strong light on what the potential perils in large blocks might be, in terms of safety and security, and particularly not knowing who’s in there.”

Marsden believes that there may need to be a “substantive, independent or government-commissioned” look at Airbnb and other similar websites to see what impact they are having on the housing market in this country, particularly in places like London, where is has been argued that epidemic of bookings is changing the character of some popular neighbourhoods.

He added: “We’re right to look at the economic possibilities but that’s not a substitute in terms of legislation or government’s responsibility to take a dispassionate look at the pros and cons.”

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