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Oxford City Council set to end unfair advantage for short lets

Oxford City Council is set to close a loophole giving landlords renting out entire properties as short lets that are registered as businesses an unfair advantage over hotels and guest houses.

On 14 September cabinet is expected to approve proposals to start charging for waste collections at whole house short lets registered as commercial businesses.

This move would follow the example of councils including Scarborough, Isle of Wight, Dorset and Hampshire and would mean that such properties would no longer be provided with a free domestic waste collection.

Legal obligations

In a statement, Oxford City Council said that businesses have a legal responsibility to safely store and dispose of business-related waste and need to pay for a commercial waste service.

If cabinet approves the proposals, the council will notify the owners of whole house short lets registered as businesses and either agree a commercial waste contract with them or complete the removal of domestic waste containers by the end of the year.

Enforcement action against non-compliant short lets registered as businesses will begin in 2023.

Commenting on the plans, Cabinet Member for Housing Councillor Linda Smith said: “We first called for powers to regulate short lets in 2018 because we believe the uncontrolled loss of permanent homes in the city to holiday letting accommodation will only exacerbate Oxford’s housing crisis.

“The Government needs to act to ensure there’s a proper level playing field with the rest of the rental market and other highly regulated commercial businesses. Until then, we will continue to use our planning enforcement powers against unauthorised change of planning use class, and we are now removing this unfair advantage of free waste collection for whole house short lets that are registered as businesses. They will need to organise a commercial waste agreement contract just like other businesses in the city; it’s only fair as these properties avoid paying council tax.

“We’ll be responding to government consultation on potential regulation. I would urge Oxford residents who have been affected by antisocial short lets in their neighbourhood to make their views known, too.”

Problems with short lets

Over the last decade there has been a rapid increase in the number of short lets in Oxford since the rise of websites like Airbnb and Homeaway.

The use of such websites to rent out entire properties for most of or all the year has resulted in a loss of valuable family homes. In extreme cases, short lets have been used for illegal or antisocial purposes.

The AirDNA website currently shows 1,591 active short let rentals in Oxford. More than half of these – 869, or 55% – are let as entire properties. To date 104 properties in Oxford have stopped paying council tax and registered as self-catering holiday businesses.

There is no requirement for short lets to be licensed or for landlords to automatically notify the council when a property has been converted into a short let.

The council said it is difficult to take action on issues like antisocial behaviour and nuisance when there is a stream of different people using a property, however the council has taken successful planning enforcement action in a number of cases for changing the use of a house into holiday accommodation without planning permission.

Since 2018, the council has repeatedly called for the Government to introduce effective regulation of short lets. It says that councils should have more powers enabling them to take action without needing to rely on complaints and a lengthy enforcement process.

National consultation

The Government has now launched a review into the impact of short-term tourist accommodation in England and is consulting on a potential short let registration scheme until 21 September.

The council will respond to the public consultation in line with its previous calls for powers to manage short lets in Oxford.

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