Airbnb holiday lets could ‘invalidate insurance of other flats in the same block’, says councillor
Richard Youle, local democracy reporter
Property owners who have rented out their flat as a short-term holiday let could invalidate the insurance of the whole block it was part of, according to a Swansea councillor.
Lynda James said that she and others had contacted booking companies like Airbnb and Booking.com to make them aware of such instances in Swansea Marina.
Cllr James said short-term lets invalidated flat owners’ leases at a block she knew about and were not permitted under the terms of its insurance policy.
She said the building’s management company was trying to address the situation but wasn’t getting support from the freeholder.
“Most of the blocks in the marina have covenants saying you can’t do short-term lets – it invalidates the lease,” said Cllr James.
She also claimed that rising numbers of Airbnb lets of family homes in Kittle and Pennard, Gower, were reducing the availability of properties for local families and creating more traffic.
“There should be some controls – I would like to see restrictions,” said the Independent ward member for Pennard.
She submitted a written question on the Airbnb subject to the council, to which cabinet member for delivery and operations, Cllr David Hopkins, replied.
Cllr Hopkins said there were no specific planning controls to prevent a home-owner renting out their property, but that the Welsh Government was looking into establishing a registration or licensing scheme for holiday accommodation operators in Wales.
The Welsh Government, he said, “feels that there are significant potential benefits” including a level playing field for professional and amateur accommodation operators and better oversight of the sector.
The planned registration scheme is part of a three-pronged approach by Welsh ministers to addressing the impact of second home ownership, which is particularly acute in tourist hotspots, including parts of Gower.
‘Need to change’
Speaking in the Senedd in July, Minister for Climate Change and Swansea West MS, Julie James, said: “Parts of the system need to change, and we will change them. We will establish a statutory registration scheme for all holiday accommodation, including short-term lets.”
Officials, she said, would also consider piloting changes to the planning system.
The policy is still in the development stages though.
Airbnb, which provides extra income for many people in Wales and extra options for holiday-makers, said it took housing concerns seriously and had put forward its own proposals for a short-term let registration system to the Welsh Government this year.
“We welcome their decision to take this forward and look forward to continuing our constructive talks,” said an Airbnb spokesman.
Airbnb has also called for new planning guidance which distinguished between commercial and non-commercial/amateur rental activity.
The spokesman said the majority of Airbnb hosts in the UK rented out a space in their home, rather than the whole of it, with a third of hosts saying the additional income was a lifeline.
He added: “According to research by Oxford Economics, Airbnb guests are estimated to have contributed a total of £107 million to the Welsh economy in 2019, supporting more than 3,600 jobs.”