Westminster City Council has repeated its calls for a compulsory registration scheme for short-term lets, a tax on overnight stays and powers to issue penalties to unregistered hosts, saying Airbnb is now causing an ‘enforcement nightmare’.
It points to an inherent unfairness in the system which saw one block of flats renting out almost as many bedrooms to visitors as the Ritz but contributing £92,000 in council tax compared to the £2.27m paid by the hotel on Piccadilly, reports The Caterer.
The authority says 11,800 properties were let on a short-term basis between January and July but that they don’t contribute to the upkeep of the borough, which creates an uneven playing field for hospitality businesses.
Council leader Councillor Adam Hug explains that minimal regulation of the sector has created an enforcement nightmare, causing misery for long-term residents who find their neighbours replaced by party flats.
“As we continue to face tens of millions in cuts over the next few years, the time has come to consider whether London’s local authorities might be able to decide for themselves if they want to charge a small levy, on short lets as well as hotels, as can be found in cities around the world,” he says.
“This could be invested in protecting and enhancing everything from keeping the streets clean to keeping people safe.”
Westminster City Council says the potential levy could be a flat rate or percentage charge set at a level that is meaningful but would not impact demand. This should apply at the point of sale and be collected by intermediate partners or accommodation providers.
A government consultation on introducing a registration scheme for short-term lets in England closed for submissions in June.