Restrictions to short-term lettings in Bath could be on the cards if proposals backed by the council are adopted by central government.
The proposals, which were approved at Bath and North East Somerset full council on Thursday (July 12), would help to address widespread concern about the impact of home-sharing services on the housing market.
It would mean that a property could only be used for short-term lettings on platforms like Airbnb for a maximum of 90 days each year without planning permission.
The original motion, put forward by the Labour group, received some amendments from the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats.
However all parties were in agreement that the industry needs better regulation and backed the proposals.
During the meeting council leader Tim Warren said that the aim of this motion was not to stop the use of Airbnb and short-term lets in Bath and the surrounding areas. But he did say that there had to be a “level playing field”.
In an amendment to the motion from the Tory group it said: “There isn’t a level playing field when hoteliers and registered B&Bs running legitimate businesses must comply with health and safety rules and licensing rules and contribute to council funds with business rate payments, whilst short term lets do not.”
Cllr Joe Rayment, deputy leader of the Labour group and who put forward the motion, said that short-term lets such as Airbnb were good for tourism and consumers but that they had not been regulated and the system was being abused.
He added: “There are properties leaving the rental market and being used solely for tourism.
“We need to prevent any loss to the private rental sector at a time when we have a huge housing crisis.”
Meanwhile Labour group leader Robin Moss said issues about the loss of accommodation in the private rental sector is just one of the concerns people had.
He explained that for some it was the worry of living next door to ‘party houses’ and for others the threat to the established B&B and hotel market.
But Cllr Moss also said he did not want this motion to discourage people from renting out spare rooms.
“We have to remember we are an authority that relies on tourism and want to encourage people to visit the area for a number of days just not whizz in and out on a bus or train for the day. And for that we need a stock of affordable accommodation,” he added.
“There is no way we are going to be able to solve all the problems tonight. It will need changes to Government legislation and because it is an evolving market this is very much just the beginning of the story.
“Let’s deal with some of the problems of short-term lettings not the benefits of short-term lettings.”
Speaking after the decision, Liberal Democrat councillor Will Sandry said: “I’m glad that councillors from across the political spectrum agreed the council should be able to intervene and exert some control over this growing market.
“This surely makes it more likely that action will be possible.
“Any changes to the system will take some time and I don’t expect the Government to immediately hand over the powers that would be needed.
“Some serious work on the detail will be needed. I’m especially keen to ensure that there are no negative effects on established holiday accommodation businesses locally.”
Cllr Sandry said he would be taking on a review of short-term rentals through his role as chairman of the Planning, Housing and Economic Development policy development and scrutiny panel.