Landlords are evicting tenants and switching to Airbnbs and holiday lets because the money is better and they “do not have to worry about bad tenants”.
Research has found a boom in rental properties being used for short-term lets, caused by a rise in domestic holidays and increased regulations for long-term landlords.
In tourist areas this is putting a strain on local provisions, causing housing shortages and pushing vital workers away from areas where they are needed, leading MPs and councils to consider measures to clamp down.
A report by Scarborough council found the number of private rental properties in the centre of the town had fallen from an average of 25 homes being available at any one time in 2017 to six in 2022. The number of holiday lets rose dramatically over the same period.
The report stated: “The council is reliant on using the private rented sector in meeting demand [for housing], however, officers are reporting a significant drop off in the availability of private rented sector accommodation in the borough.
“We have also seen examples of private landlords evicting tenants in order to convert [their properties] into Airbnb and holiday lets.”
This is not unique to beauty spots, as the number of Airbnb listings in London more than quadrupled between 2015 and 2019, in a city with a shortage of long-term lets, previous research by the Greater London Authority found.
A private member’s bill brought last week by Rachael Maskell, the York Central Labour MP, aimed to implement a licence to turn domestic properties into short-term and holiday-let accommodation, give local authorities the power to issue fines and to remove licences, and seek to introduce bans on such properties in certain areas.
Last month, the government launched a consultation into how to balance the need for tourist accommodation with homes for locals to live in. The deadline for responses is 21 September.
In the meantime, councils are coming up with their own solutions. North Yorkshire county council is considering proposals to introduce a 100% premium for council tax bills on second homes, while new rules come into force next year in Wales requiring second homeowners to pay 300% council tax.
Landlords said it was not only money but experiences with bad tenants and a lack of flexibility in long-term lettings that was driving them to platforms such as Airbnb.
One landlord who got a court order to evict a tenant who did not pay rent for 14 months told the Guardian she would eventually turn her other long-term lets into Airbnbs.
She has four apartments in Scarborough rented through Airbnb, and another two are long-term private lets. She said: “I have only kept those houses on assured shorthold tenancies because I can trust them and the families would have a terrible time finding alternative accommodation, which is at a premium in this tourist area.
“As and when the houses become empty I will use them for holiday accommodation if at all possible. I will not risk different new full-time tenants.”
She said being able to claim expenses including mortgage interest, setting up costs and running costs made it more lucrative for her pension pot. “But most of all I do not have to worry about bad tenants, antisocial tenants and non-paying tenants, which all take forever to get rid of.
“I accept that tenants need protection from bad landlords but good landlords are being penalised along the way.”