Legalising London's bed-hopping economy is POINTLESS

Nobody's been fined for breaking Airbnb ban

Exclusive There is no evidence to support claims that London residents have been fined for using sites such as Airbnb, despite moves by the government to push through headline-grabbing "sharing economy" legislation, El Reg can reveal.

Last month, the government announced it would introduce an amendment to allow London residents to use websites such as Airbnb without the fear of a £20,000 fine.

In the rest of the country, residents are able to let out their homes for short periods. Yet in London planning permission is required under section 25 of the Greater London Council (General Powers) Act 1973.

Housing minister Brandon Lewis said the law would be updated for the "internet age", to ensure residents were not fined for short-term lets of under 90 days a year.

However, 16 London authorities have since told El Reg they had no records of any such fines being enforced. Furthermore, many said it would not be "technically possible" to do so.

In a debate about the issue on Tuesday, MPs expressed concerns the changes to the legislation could have on the unintended consequence of increasing commercial lets.

Mark Field, Conservative MP for Cities of London & Westminster, said: "Sensible, pragmatic regulations exempting the Greater London area from a short-lets free-for-all are, as we know, under acute threat."

Andy Sawford, Labour MP for Corby and East Northamptonshire, said: "We are worried about the lack of consultation on these proposals, and the results from the recent survey undertaken by London Councils show that the move is not really what many London local authorities want."

Karen Buck, Labour MP for Westminster North, questioned whether there was evidence of any innocent homeowner being charged and fined for a casual holiday letting.

"I do not think for a second that that is what local authorities are doing," she said.

The amendment to the Deregulation Bill is currently going through Parliament.

The Department for Communities and Local Government would not respond to the question of how many fines it knows to have been imposed. Instead it re-iterated the point that the "current outdated legislation is inconsistently enforced".

El Reg is waiting to hear back from the other London councils and will provide an update if records of any fines exist.

Last week, trade body Sharing Economy UK was established, comprising a number of "sharing economy" companies in an effort to boost the industry. Field said on Tuesday that its creation was "akin to setting up a trade body of payday lenders to dictate financial services policy". ®

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