Airbnb accuses rival firms of failing to deal with ‘hotels by the back door’ in row over 90-day letting rules

A row has broken out between Airbnb and rival online letting agencies over rules that are supposed to stop hosts letting out their homes for more than 90 days a year.

The Californian company says that one year on from its introduction of an automatic block that kicks in once a host has notched up 90 days of lettings, no other online agency has followed suit.

Hosts are required by law to seek planning permission if they want to go beyond the 90-day limit. This is intended to prevent disturbances from unofficial and unregulated hotels. 

Airbnb, which has more than 75,000 London properties on its website, said it has commissioned research showing a spike in listings on other platforms after it announced its intention to introduce the cap.

According to the analysis by data company Transparent, Airbnb’s biggest rivals,, Home-Away, TripAdvisor and Casamundo, have a combined 40,000 listings — none limited by an automatic 90-day cap.

James McClure, northern Europe general manager at Airbnb, said it was “the only platform that works with London to promote the rules and limit how often hosts can share their homes. We are proud to help Londoners share their homes responsibly and are disappointed others are failing to take similar steps to help make London stronger”.

Maps show how rental giant took over London

Dramatic maps reveal the rise in Airbnb bookings since the rental site launched in London. They were compiled by Clerkenwell-based data visualisation studio Flourish using information from reviews.

According to its analysis, in 2011 — the year Airbnb’s London office opened — there were about 400 reviews of bookings in the capital. By 2013 the figure was over 15,500. Last year it was 846,000. Each dot illustrates a review for a stay at a particular time and location. The figure for actual bookings is likely to be higher.

But a spokeswoman for TripAdvisor said: “It is each homeowner’s responsibility to ensure that they comply with local legislation. For platforms like ours, enforcement of London’s 90-day limit on short-term rentals is on a  voluntary basis.”

A spokeswoman for German-owned Casamundo said it had no contact details for homeowners, so “we expect and assume that our partners block calendars of accommodations when their limit of days has been reached”.

London Assembly member Tom Copley, who compiled a report on the abuse of the rules, said all hosts should have to register with a council, adding: “Cash-strapped local authorities are struggling to enforce against people who turn their homes into hotels by the back door.” 

A spokesman for the Mayor said he was working with boroughs “to improve data-sharing so that those who abuse the system can be better targeted”. 

A spokesman for US-owned Home-Away said it was in discussions with the Greater London Authority “to work out the best solution for the application of the short-term rental regulations”. said it had announced partnership initiatives with governments across Europe so that it can help find “constructive solutions”.

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