Devon has seen a staggering 70% drop in private rented properties over the last two years as landlords have swapped to short term holiday rentals. 

Councillors on the Team Devon local outbreak engagement board heard that reductions were particularly prevalent in West Devon, North Devon and Torridge, which have higher levels of second-home ownership.

The figures exclude Torbay and Plymouth, which are outside the administrative area.

keri denton devon

Keri Denton (pictured), the county council’s head of economy, enterprise and skills, reported that a number of private rentals were turning up as Airbnbs.

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“That’s obviously a decision for the homeowner, but it is placing pressure on our ability to attract a workforce and offer housing to support those key sectors that we’re short in to support our economic recovery,” she said.

Council leader John Hart said it was a “quite terrifying figure” and that Airbnb had a lot to answer for.

He told Devon Live: “Having a buoyant private rental market is important to the Devon economy as it provides much needed accommodation for workers.

“If teachers, nurses and young professionals were turning down opportunities to work here because there’s no accommodation to rent, that’s got to change.”

Hart added: “We know a lot of private landlords have shifted their properties to become short term holiday rentals. Whether that shift is long term, or opportunistic for as long as holidaying at home is popular, is yet to be seen.”

Tory MPs in the South West recently declared war on landlords in holiday resorts who are kicking out tenants to convert their properties into Airbnbs including Totnes MP Anthony Mangnall who promised to declare a housing emergency by the autumn, after complaining that locals have been left homeless by soaring property prices and the staycation boom.

Across the UK, the number of new rental properties being listed is down 14% compared with the 2017-19 average, according to Zoopla analysis. In Cornwall, it has dropped by 44%.

Watch the meeting.


  1. Landlords may be making the switch to short term lets not only because of the trend in staycations but also because for 18 months it has been impossible to evict non-paying & otherwise rogue tenants. Councils / Govt cannot have it both ways – you cannot continually put extra regulation & cost on LLs, remove their control over their property and then expect them not to find a more profitable way to use that property.

    A functional PRS needs to support LLs as well and tenants and until the balance, recently tipped so far in favour of tenants, is reset, the people who are going to suffer the most are tenants.

  2. hallelujah – do you think just possible that Councillors and Politicians might realise how important the PRS is?

    This is the tip of the iceberg and more LLs will be finding other ways of earning a living with less stress – well those that don’t just sell up anyway.

    There is one big sh*t-storm brewing but nobody in authority is prepared to acknowledge it.

    They will be closing the stable door soon, but the horse will have bolted.

  3. This goes to show exactly what happens when you change the market conditions without any consideration for the wider impact. If you make renting property via a standard lease unviable don’t be surprised when property owners stop doing it.

    But again rather than considering the wider economic landscape the council leader here lays blame at Airbnb. They are unhappy with the consequences of reducing the attractiveness of being in the PRS . This all stems from the likes of Shelter and Generation Rent being so keen to punish landlords by making their position untenable. Along with government policy which has made theft by non payment of rent a viable option for a proportion of tenants

  4. Law of unintended consequences – eviction bans, increasing red tap & tax squeezes driving PRS landlords out of the market – coming home to roost. Here in Devon the council are now begging PRS landlords to get in touch in order to house the flood of immigrants currently arriving in our coastal towns. And guess what? There are hardly any PRS landlords with properties to rent to locals– many are biding their time until current AST tenants leaves – let alone the hundreds and thousands of refugees and cross-channel immigrants that need to be housed. Instead Serco have take out long term contracts with Best Western and other hotels in our town, making holiday lets even more attractive to tourists.

  5. Covid has an impact, which I suspect means people taking UK holidays.

    Looking at listing of AirBnb’s holiday lets, some are clearly ex-rental properties, without the charm and character of a traditional holiday home. Many years ago, I remember staying in delightfully cute properties, but these seem to have gone, replaced with holiday homes kitted with budget furniture.

    Did n’t get a single booking from me….

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