Concerns over landlords misusing letting websites like Airbnb in Hastings

Hastings Borough Council
Hastings Borough Council

New legislation may be necessary to prevent unscrupulous landlords from abusing holiday letting websites such as Airbnb, Hastings councillors have warned.

The topic was raised during a discussion about temporary accommodation and the wider housing market within Hastings at a meeting of the council’s cabinet on Monday (April 8).

During the discussion, councillors raised concerns that landlords could use the website and other similar services to get around rules on tenancies by classifying their properties as ‘serviced accommodation.’

Andy Patmore (Con. – Maze Hill) said: “There is a lot less legislation around serviced accommodation, so you can get around all sorts of different things by calling it that.

“With Airbnb you are supposed to be on holiday for the short term – one month to two months would be the maximum.

“But where landlords are circumventing legislation by calling it serviced accommodation they give huge discounts for long serviced lets.

“If you stayed there for six months the rent starts to stack up to normal rents, however you don’t have a tenancy agreement. The landlord doesn’t need to serve a section 21 notice, they just get rid of you.

“I think it is something we as a council need to be really aware of and look at in future.”

Cllr Patmore, who is himself a landlord outside the borough, also warned the council may find landlords are evicting residents from rental properties in order to set themselves up in this way.

Officers said the issue had not yet been raised significantly within the town, but was known to be a problem elsewhere – particularly in some European cities.

Officers also said they would consider the matter in more detail, to see if the council should be developing its own policies on the matter.

Council leader Peter Chowney agreed there were all sorts of legislative uncertainties grey areas and blurred lines between holiday rented accommodation, private rented accommodation, letting out a room in a house on sites such as Airbnb and other types of serviced accommodation. 

He added: “I’m not sure what powers we have over that, but I think you are right, we probably do need to look at what we can and can’t do.

“It probably needs better national legislation around all those things.”

However Andy Batsford, the council’s lead member for housing, cautioned against putting too much resource into the matter at a local level.

He said: “Just a quick factual update, I’ve just been on Airbnb and there are 142 homes [listed] in Hastings.

“I hear what you are saying, that there are potential long term issues if it gets bigger, but I think 142 homes in the whole of Hastings, when we are absolutely lacking in hotel accommodation, i’m not sure if it is a big issue now.”

Meanwhile Sue Beaney (Lab. – Braybrooke) spoke about a case within her ward, where the resident had only been able to stay in their home as a result of extra income from renting a room on Airbnb.