Probe into 95 homes in Airbnb crackdown

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NEARLY 100 properties are to be investigated in a crackdown on Islanders using their homes as short-term holiday lets without permission.

Environment Minister Jonathan Renouf said officers would be assessing the planning status of 95 properties identified through websites such as Airbnb, which allows people to offer short-term lodgings or home stays for a fee.

He also revealed that supplementary planning guidance was being prepared, to advise those considering using their property for a short-term holiday let as to whether they needed to make an application covering the change of use.

In November, Deputy Renouf and Housing Minister David Warr announced that officers would be ‘cracking down’ on those renting illegally.

Under the Planning and Building Law, the use of a property for short-term holiday letting is defined as ‘development’, and requires planning permission.

Referencing a recent application in the east of the Island, Deputy Renouf said he was ‘encouraged’ to see an example of a person seeking the necessary permission to list properties on self-catering accommodation sites like Airbnb.

‘It suggests people are now realising that – if they want to go down this route – it is not just a case of putting a sign on the door, creating a website listing and saying they are open for business. It suggests people are getting the message that this is a regulated activity,’ he said.

‘The housing officers sent through a list of properties that they wanted us to proactively investigate. In the first instance it means looking to see whether any planning permission exists, because all the [information] we have from the website is that it’s being listed.’

He added: ‘What I do know is that we have a significant backlog of compliance cases within the planning system, so it won’t necessarily be that the moment we get an address that we go racing out to see it. There is a workflow that has to be respected to some extent, but that is part of the workflow now and has been added to the list.’

Deputy Renouf explained that the supplementary planning guidance would go out for consultation ‘in the next few weeks’ and would consider how short-term holiday lets were defined.

‘Is there a difference, we can say, between a room in a house as opposed to a whole house? What special circumstances might arise, for example, if someone is away receiving medical attention in the UK for a significant period – or a student is away – does that create opportunities for a slightly easier route to achieve permission?

‘That [planning guidance] will provide more detail on the planning framework for considering applications for short-term holiday lets,’ he continued.

Deputy Renouf has previously warned that those breaching the planning law would be given ‘fair chance to regularise their position’, with those who ‘flagrantly’ carry on risking an enforcement action and financial penalty.

‘We are still in the “I hope it doesn’t come to that” stage of the process,’ he added.

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