The scheme, spearheaded by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), has issued an open call for evidence in a bid to better understand the market, opportunities and challenges that the rise in the use of rental booking websites and apps poses to tourism communities and visitors.
The government said it may enact physical checks of premises to ensure regulations in areas including health and safety, noise and anti-social behaviour are obeyed.
It may also lead to the introduction of a registration ‘kitemark’ scheme, which will see short-term holiday lets spot checked for compliance with rules on issues such as gas safety, a self-certification scheme for hosts to register with before they can operate, and better information or a single source of guidance setting out the legal requirements for providers.
Tourism minister Nigel Huddleston said:“We’ve seen huge growth in the range of holiday accommodation available over the last few years.
“We want to reap the benefits of the boom in short-term holiday lets while protecting community interests and making sure England has high-quality tourist accommodation.
“While no decisions have been taken, this review will help us work out the options to look at so we can protect our much-loved communities and thriving holiday industry.”
Housing minister Stuart Andrew praised Airbnb for boosting tourism across the country, but emphasised the need to ensure “this doesn’t drive residents out of their communities”.
He continued: “We are already taking action to tackle the issue of second and empty homes in some areas by empowering councils to charge up to double the rate of council tax.
“This review will give us a better understanding of how short term lets are affecting housing supply locally to make sure the tourism sector works for both residents and visitors alike.”
According to recent data collected by Airbnb, it saw a 33 per cent increase in UK listings between 2017 and 2018.
And the government was complimentary of its success, noting how the rise in the use of online platforms for short-term letting has increased the variety and availability of options – such as allowing people to make money from renting out spare rooms and properties.
Almost three quarters of people (72 per cent) told Airbnb in its green tourism report that the environmental benefits of home sharing played a role in their choice to travel using that platform. A separate report by the firm in 2018 said a typical UK host on their platform earns an average of £3,100 a year.
But with its benefits come many downsides, such as Airbnb’s impact on housing supply and price in these areas. The government also gives voice to fears of a rise in anti-social behaviour including noise, waste and drunken behaviour in local communities.
Lower protections for guests caused by negligence of health and safety regulations are also amidst concerns, according to the DCMS.
As a result, the government has said the review will also consider allowing for measures to be taken against anti-social behaviour, while allowing Londoners to rent out their homes.
It comes after the Scottish government set out legislation requiring all local authorities to establish a licensing scheme, while in Northern Ireland, tourist accommodation cannot be provided without a valid certificate issued by the national tourist board. Wales has publicly stated its ambition to establish a statutory registration or licensing scheme.
David Weston, chairman of the Bed & Breakfast Association, welcomed the review: “It is the right time to consider how we protect all consumers, regardless of an accommodation owner’s business model, and level the playing-field between traditional business and those on newer platforms.
“The call for evidence will help the Government strike the right balance between achieving those aims, yet avoiding imposing disproportionate new burdens or costs on small businesses.”
Merilee Karr, chair of short term accommodation association, and founder and CEO, Under The Doormat, added: “Short term and holiday rentals play an increasingly important role in the English tourism economy by contributing significant numbers of jobs in local communities and generating valuable sources of income for local homeowners and businesses.
“Any new regulatory solution should recognise this contribution and seek to support the industry as an important part of the wider UK tourism sector. As an industry we look forward to working with DCMS to ensure that a simple, cost-effective regulatory solution is found, which takes into account the needs and benefits to communities, and supports owners to rent out properties that would otherwise sit empty.”
The government said its call for evidence will allow it to gather the evidence and data to inform any future steps and it wants to hear the views of all parties, including hosts, online platforms, accommodation businesses and local authorities.