Thanet Airbnb: Would proposed restrictions help the long-term let market or would it damage tourism, businesses and jobs?

AirBnb

A motion being put before Thanet council on Thursday (October 14) proposing planning restrictions on short term lets and a 90 day per year letting limit for entire homes in Thanet on Airbnb, will ‘obliterate’ isle tourism, say those involved in the industry.

Cllr Rob Yates has proposed the action over concerns that whole property rentals on Airbnb are impacting on the supply of long-term lets for residents.

In his motion he says: “We welcome the majority of visitors to Thanet, who make an important contribution to our economy, but we hear residents’ concerns and wish to take action to control this serious issue which is damaging our community and damaging the reputation of Airbnb.”

The motion proposes following a model used in Greater London where entire home properties can only be rented out for up to 90 days a year. A requirement for change of use planning regulations for short term lets is also being suggested.

The Margate councillors says those with entire property rentals are using the isle as an investment opportunity while residents struggle to find accommodation. In response many residents shared stories of their struggles to find homes they can afford as prices in the Thanet market are pushed up and long-term lets appear to be dwindling in supply.

What local Airbnb and holiday let businesses say

Thanet holiday rental businesses say the restrictions would not only ruin people’s businesses but also impact on employment and the wider supply chain – such as pubs, launderettes and restaurants.

Margate couple Ian and Cheryl Seaman opened their Airbnb management company, Let’s Host for You, in May this year.

The couple have launched a petition to show their objection to the proposals.

Ian said: “We started the petition because we wanted to show there is support from the public for holiday rentals in Thanet.  So far, the news appears to have provided a very negative view on holiday rentals and Cllr Yates has been given a lot of airtime to announce his objectives and feed the public with a very one-sided opinion.

“The petition has received a lot of support from holiday rental owners, local business, and the general public.  They too, do not understand why Cllr Yates would like to obliterate Thanet’s healthy tourist industry, particularly when the people of Thanet have worked tirelessly to build it up over the last decade.

“Restricting the rental availability to just 25% of the year simply isn’t viable and will most definitely ruin people’s businesses and local job losses will be inevitable.

“We launched our holiday rental management service in May 2021 and we have worked so hard since our launch and invested all our own money in to it.  We employ 4 housekeeping staff and have 3 office personnel.  We work with local businesses who provide a multitude of essential services to the industry, laundrettes, electricians, plumbers, general maintenance contractors, gardeners, photographers, accountants, advertisers.

“We direct all our guests in our welcome guides to dine in local restaurants, drink at local bars, shop in local shops, visit local places of interest, museums, galleries etc.  If Cllr Yates proposal goes though, we would lose everything we have worked relentlessly for, we would also become unemployed and unable to pay for our everyday lives and the same goes for the staff we employ.  The thought of the business failing at such an early stage is heart breaking to us all.”

Renting in off-peak season

The couple say that holiday rentals are not just used in Summer season and are occupied for some 70% of the year not just by those on holiday but also key workers to staff on projects like the wind-farm, people moving between homes or whilst renovation and insurance work is taking place.

Ian added: “So far this year bookings for the off-peak season have been healthy, proving that Thanet does not operate a 90-day season; this has also been echoed amongst the holiday rental owners we have spoken with. This obviously, won’t just affect our business in this way, it will affect anyone working in this industry and who rely on holiday rentals as their main source of income.

“These businesses have invested their time and money into Thanet to match the tourism demand. Without holiday rentals bringing tourists, restaurants, cafes and bars will only just survive through the off-peak periods. These businesses will see a drastic cut in their takings in the summer and as a result, they might have to make staff redundant or even shut down.   A lot of people have put hard work into creating holiday rentals to restore Thanet as an iconic tourist destination and promote small upcoming businesses.

“Cllr Yates believes there will be more long-term rentals available by enforcing a 90-day restriction, this in our opinion is not going to happen. Most of our owners have never considered the long-let market, this is because their second home is their holiday home away from home.  They and their extended family and friends use it for personal use all year round.”

Empty properties

A Margate Airbnb owner says the motion is not taking into account the underlying issues that are adversely affecting the housing market and questioned the amount of empty homes being brought back into use.

They said: “In Thanet a lack of affordable housing is compounded by the highest number of empty properties in Kent, and this figure has been rising rapidly. Thanet District Council’s Live Margate 10 year programme (ending in 2026) aims to bring empty properties back into use and yet only 10 properties out of 2474 empty dwellings have been renovated so far. Do TDC have a vested interest in keeping properties empty, given that there is a council tax premium to pay on long term empty properties? It rises from a 100% premium after 2 years, to 200% after 5 years and 300% after 10 years.”

The supply chain

The holiday let owner said data shows guests visiting Margate spend more than five times as much on shopping, food, drink and entertainment as they do on accommodation.

They added: “Any proposal to uphold a 90 day ban would adversely impact the earning power of many women, including those who work for and run the cleaning companies that service this industry.”

One cleaner, who asked to remain anonymous, said: “A 90 day rule would mean I would have to get rid of my staff( who have families too) and go on benefits as I can’t afford to look after my family.”

Another cleaning firm boss added: “If the suggested 90 day rule came in to action, our business would very likely fold. Holiday rental cleaning makes up a majority of our business and we find that a key part of our success has been the flexibility it gives us to operate around our children and home life.

“We have also grown our business and employed others who need the flexibility to fit in with child care. Living in an area such as Thanet, there really isn’t much opportunity for work as flexible as cleaning. If this rule is applied, it may leave us no alternative but to close our business and seek to request financial support from the government which we really do not want to do. We have worked hard to build a good reputation and client base and it would be devastating to lose it all.”

Giving residents control

Cllr Yates says his motion is about giving residents more control over which properties in their area are used in the Airbnb/short term rental industry.

He said: “In Margate we have 14 properties available for rent and over 300 Airbnbs available. Where will our hospital workers and RNLI crew live if this rapid rate of Airbnb expansion continues?

“Even Conservative Anthony Mangall MP is announcing a housing emergency for a similar situation in Totnes. All this motion looks to do is give local people control over which properties on their street turn into Airbnbs, and asks Airbnb for a meeting and a voluntary cap of 90 days on their platform.

“Tourism is essential for Thanet, but so is the livelihood of our long term residents who have committed to the area and pay their share of council tax.”

He adds that he hopes MPs will look at rules around payment of council tax or business rates.

If an Airbnb property is available for let for 140 days or more per year then it is no longer classed as a residential property that is liable for council tax and converts to a business property with non-domestic rates (NDR).

If a landlord or business only has one property they can get Small Business Rates Relief so there is no payment of council tax or non-domestic rates. If more than one is owned, registered under the same name, there would not be rate relief.

Government is also due to legislate to change the criteria determining whether a holiday let is valued for business rates to account for actual days the property was rented, following a previous consultation launched in 2018. Further details on business rates treatment of self-catering accommodation are due to be published by government shortly.

Questions about registration

Independent Broadstairs councillor Ruth Bailey will also put forward a question concerning the shortage of rental properties and the associated proliferation of Airbnbs in Thanet.

She will ask what powers Thanet council has, possibly through the Local Plan, to address the issue, how many Airbnbs there are in Thanet and whether there is a local requirement to register Airbnbs with the council.

She says: “I have become increasingly aware of the plight of people trying desperately to find a place to rent in Thanet. I even know of a lady in her 80s in a desperate situation who has been issued a Section 21 (eviction) notice but cannot find anywhere to rent so is temporarily staying with her brother.

“There currently seems to be a real issue around the lack of available rental property and this unavailability seems to be exacerbated, at least in part, by the proliferation of Airbnbs.

“A shortage of rental properties will also put more pressure on the authority in terms of having to find additional temporary accommodation to house people so this is a serious problem that has ramifications for the council.”

Imbalance?

Acorn Margate – a group of Margate residents concerned about the precarious nature of renting in Thanet – is asking the council to support regulation of Airbnb properties.

Spokesperson Georgie Hurst said: “We at ACORN Margate are calling upon Thanet District Council to support the motion to regulate Airbnb in Thanet. The motion is calling for planning restrictions on short term rentals and a 90 day annual limit for entire home holiday rentals in the district.

“We believe these regulations will be hugely important for redressing the imbalance between short-term holiday lets and homes for the working people of Thanet. These regulations are not new for Airbnb, they are already in force in Greater London.

“They make the necessary steps to ensure that housing in the area is governed responsibly and equitably. We need to see real improvement for tenants in Margate, who are constantly getting an unfair deal. From illegal DSS discrimination and rent hikes not aligned with local wages and housing benefit, to insecure short-term housing contracts. Airbnb adds fuel to the fire, depriving Thanet residents of secure and affordable housing and worsening inequality.

“While tourists are important in the summer season, permanent residents are here every month of the year, supporting local businesses and contributing to the vibrancy of our communities. Without regulation, these communities will lose the people that make it a place worth living in.”

The group is planning a demonstration outside the council offices tomorrow (October 14) at 6pm. Find the event page here

Thrive 365 – extending tourism

Margate sands Photo John Horton

One holiday let businessperson, who asked not to be named, said most in the trade would happily use a voluntary regulation system but adds that none have been approached about that or any of the issues raised in the proposal going before council.

They added: “The push for tourism has been around the council’s ‘Thrive 365’ to extend the season. Dreamland is trying hard to make itself a year-round destination and when they put on events, or the Winter Gardens, people need accommodation.

“There are 26,800 private or social rented properties in Thanet, Airbnbs are a tiny percentage of properties.

“I feel we are being treated as the enemy but there is a lot of income generated through tourism, it is 20% of Thanet’s employment and extending the season means we get more people here. This proposal would see it all undone.”

The business owner said limits would likely see properties sitting empty after the 90 day cap or being sold off. She suggested a focus on empty properties which increased by more than 300 between 2018 and 2020, which she says: “is more than all of the Airbnbs” in Margate.

Data from Visit Kent shows a growing Airbnb sector with Thanet recording 1,089 active rentals with a rental growth of 373% between 2016 and 2019.

There question has also been raised of how many of the isle’s Airbnbs are properties that would be suitable for long-term let as a number of listed destinations on the letting platform are converted lodges, glamping vans or yurts or caravans.

A 5 year plan to boost tourism in Thanet presented to council last year said tourism is worth £320 million per year to the local economy and supports, directly and indirectly 7,950 jobs.The report said nearly one in five visitors are from London with a key market being in their 20s to early 40s and among suggested actions were: “upgrading existing B&Bs and supporting new serviced accommodation such as midrange hotels, lodge and camping pods and high-quality independent B&Bs.”

The council meeting at TDC’s Cecil Street offices starts at 7pm on Thursday.

The petition can be found at: https://www.change.org/p/local-business-owners-stop-a-councillor?

46 Comments

  1. Nothing wrong with ab&bs lots of things wrong with those who are protesting about it. Let all the moaners get out of Thanet it would be a far happier place. These moaners are the sort who let their dogs mess and don’t pick it up.

    • What evidence do you have that people who protest about the proliferation of Airbnbs let their dogs foul the area? If you are going to debate an issue, do it with logic and facts.

  2. Property opposite me put pods in their garden to let out without planning, council found out, they applied for retrospective, was refused so turned them in Airbnb … No planning required… And they let the whole House out too and live in a camper all summer n leave us residents with it….

      • But he does have a point, there are a disproportionate number of people in cliftonville ( ramsgate has its share too as does the rest of thanet) who really are of no benefit to society and who soak up resources. Talk to the local beat police and they’ll confirm that there are a hardcore of problematic residents that drag the area down. The beat officer 20 years ago reckoned that if he could lock up the areas 10 worst offenders ( as much for the crime they encouraged others to commit as their own deeds) it’d reduce crime/asb in the area by over 50% and remove the figures that made it look as though crime did pay.
        About the same time a decision was taken to no longer deal with petty crime ,because when it was committed by a foreign national the extra time and expense of dealing with non english speakers along withvthe criminal justice systems reluctance to hand down discouraging sanctions in the few cases that ever were prosecuted, as a result they also had to ignore similar behaviour by locals for fear of claims of discrimination. Drug dealing is just tolerated as its a never ending battle.
        It led to only serious crimes of violence and sexual assault being dealt with , leaving the ne’er do wells to do as they wish.
        The demand from the DFL’s in recent years and the substantial increases in property prices that come with it has encouraged some landlords to sell up , increased rents have meant that it’s now possible to avoid the lower end of the rental market tenants and so at long last there are signs that cliftonville may have finally turned a corner.
        It would be good if the council cracked down on the poor buildings both private and social sector , but no point in holding your breath.

  3. The fundamental problem is that there are not enough houses and therefore the prices are too high for people who are not on the housing ladder. Many houses in Thanet and around the UK are not of high enough standard to be economic to heat and in the short and long term need to be replaced with modern housing. The whole issue is caused by the restriction in plots to build houses. We need in the UK some 5m new homes for the expansion in population and need to replace old homes. Building at the current rate will only make the problem get worse. Until communities get to understand the principles of economics (shortage of supply means higher prices) then nothing will change.
    Thanet is a town whose income is partly based on tourism and therefore needs places for visitors to stay, and park their caravans and motorhomes, and AIRBNB needs some reasonable regulation, but the fundamental issue needs to be resolved in parallel with local issues.
    Thanet used to have many B&Bs which are now converted into bedsits because of this fundamental issue.
    Let’s all talk about the solutions to this housing shortage positively and not try to concentrate on solving the symptoms rather than the cause.

  4. I am all for promoting tourism in Thanet but my concerns are that there are no restrictions or regulations in the holiday rental industry. We all know that some people on holiday let their hair down without regard for people living close by and that this can lead to problems for neighbours. All Air B and B rentals, especially in terraced houses or flats, should be carefully monitored with more regulations put in place to avoid problems for neighbours.

  5. My god Bill get a life.There are so many people looking to rent my son and family included who have lived in Thanet all their lives yet are struggling,not on any benefits might I add and both work in Thanet they have been looking for 3 months because where they are is selling, no arrears on rent yet cannot get a suitable home that is not over £1000 a month now tell me why that is fair to locals

  6. The Airbnb is doing damage for those who need housing long term.
    In our street two years ago 7 long term households we forced to look for alternative housing as they were evicted from the large house they had flats in so the owner could sell to people who were changing it to Airbnb/serviced apartments. Those residents were the perfect tenants. The new owner has used the whole premises for their business of renting on short term holiday lets ever since without any restrictions permitted by the local authority. Now the street is often woken up in the middle of the night by antisocial behaviour by the people using these Airbnb/serviced apartments all year round. Our street would be happy for the proposed regulations by TDC to come in as soon as possible.

  7. It’s not helping jobs. They are predominately owned by people outside of the area who wanna make an easy buck. People staying there takes them away from hotels that provide jobs for local people. Not to mention the homes it takes away for us to live in. Saying that they do need to get on with all the hotels ‘planned’

  8. Landlords are taxed to the hilt from recent tax changes in buy to let, so quite naturally, they’ll take their business where it is more fruitful. It is not the fault of anyone owning more than one home that Councils up and down the country have failed to build enough social housing. The private rental market has propped up social housing for years. And there’s nothing wrong with owning more than one home. This isn’t Venezuela or the USSR!!

      • I have a social conscience, it’s meant i’ve invested a lot of time effort and money creating decent homes to let to those wishing to rent. I’ve never evicted a tenant ( i have asked a couple to leave and eventually they did) , my existing tenants get minimal rent rises ( to cover , additional legislative requirements and taxation, it’s a business so costs get passed on). I’ve tenants whose rents have increased just over £100 a month in the last 15 years.
        Of course i’m the fool , anti landlord sentiment and policy means that i should really go for every possible penny of rent and minimise my outgoings , pay the tax and lord it up, as social conscience aside there’s little to make a landlord do otherwise.

      • Are they allowed to build more homes and keep them? Where would those ineligible for social housing , unable or not wanting to buy , live?

  9. Thanet councillors neither want or understand today’s visitors and tourists like other places ie Eastbourne,Great Yarmouth etc.No decent large hotels,no theatre open,no caravan or motorhome parking and now no b and b.Margate was founded on visitors and holidaymakers…get real

    • Eh? I can think of at least 10 caravan parks in Thanet: Quex in Birchington, Birchington Vale, Lydden Farm, Nethercourt Touring Park, Pegwell Bay Caravan Park, Manston Court Holiday Park, The Foxhunter Park in Monkton, Bradgate Holiday Park in Manston, Wayside Caravan Park near Minster, Hawk Place in Minnis Bay…

  10. People who use AirBnBs do generate rubbish.

    If AirBnB owners do not pay council tax or business rates; how are these services resourced?

    • Indeed. In many parts of town they dump the rubbish in other residents communal bins, and contribute nothing. Unless you could noise pollution to the neighborhood.

  11. Surrey Road is about to get at least 3 Airb&b with the sale of a house and 3 flats which were rented at modest rents but cleared out for the sale.

    Residents have had to put up with years of noisy parties from tenants of uninterested landlord. Why should we have to endure Airb&b excesses?

  12. First priority is to house people in long term secure properties, thats why housing was built for. People before profits.

  13. Barry,.ordinary folk who own rental properties are not responsible for long term housing needs for social housing. Councils need to put residents first, but private owners are not obliged to take on the responsibilities of the government, local or otherwise.

  14. It’s so clearly an argument between those making tonnes of money letting their second homes out to DFL’s, and locals struggling to even get a roof over their heads.

    The Airbnbers will say anything to continue profiting, they’re like tories.

    I’m surprised its even an argument. It’s quite clear cut for me

    It’s a social problem for hard up people living in one of the most deprived towns in England. Let’s bring things in to perspective ey?
    Getting rid of AirBNB entirely wouldn’t harm or distrupt anybodies life except the rich home owner who can no longer let their property.

    Continuing down the road of allowing them freedom to buy second homes and let them out for extortionate rents, is in turn increasing rents and house prices for local people born and bred here, pushing them further out.

    Tax the hell out of second home owners. There is no moral justification for owning multiple homes when there is a housing crisis. Deincentivise the practise of owning multiple residencies that you don’t reside in.

    All that will be left in margate is loads of self employed work from home east londoners buying and selling things to each other, and contributing nothing to the margate economy, not creating jobs, and if they do, they’re creating jobs for their down from london friends. Artists don’t create jobs either, and they don’t make any money. If this carries on, you’ll lose the artists too as they’ll be priced out of their middleclass lives. Then who will KG winters sell a £20 banana too?

  15. Pity there are so many narrow and generalised opinions on here. If Thanet is serious about being a 365 destination then it needs to have the services and infrastructure to support short and long term visitors.
    Earlier posts have pointed out the need for decent accomodation, restaurants, parking, campervan facilities, sea front toilets…..the list goes on and on – and we don’t have much quantity or quality in any of these.
    Yes, let’s look at holiday lets – and remember AirBNB is not the only online booking site, shut down AirBNB and landlords will go somewhere else – but don’t imagine for a minute that it will make much difference to affordable housing or the local economy.
    This latest wheeze – it was banning campervans from the seafront last week – is really about a few councillors showboating without thinking through what they are saying, where their ideas fit into the big picture or the consequences of making Thanet a hostile place for visitors and business.
    Less hysteria and more rational thinking please.

  16. Somebody needs to start looking at the bigger picture.

    Too many people chasing too few houses.

    Two solutions :

    Build more houses or reduce the demand.

    The former necessitates the sacrifice of more farmland and countryside.

    The latter requires someone to stand up and say ”no” to an increasing population.

    • No point in being sensible , there are far too many that believe you can have as many people as want to live here but not build on anything but brownfield sites.

  17. If an Airbnb property is available for let for 140 days or more per year then it is no longer classed as a residential property that is liable for council tax and converts to a business property with non-domestic rates (NDR).

    Copied & pasted from the above splash.

    Many of those let out properties will be on domestic rates and tdc get 100%.
    Business rates, how much share tdc gets is a secret but nationally the collecting council gets around 50%.
    Then 50% going to central government funds to run the rate system and other payees.

    Why would tdc want to reduce their easy income ?

    have interest in holiday lettings, i would luv to rent out to people in most need but the council would need to top up the rent and act as a guarantor.

    Its possible.

    • It’s definitely possible James, I let my flats to the most vulnerable. If you want to find out more call 01843 577377 to talk to one of the council’s landlord liaison officers. Good luck!

      • Hi, yes i have reached out but within a few taps on their keyboard i was kindly advised my property is not suitable.

  18. to be fair , why would anybody want to pay to stay around here . apart from the precious turner centre what have we got to offer ? please dont say the beaches , or dont start about margate old town. its a dump – end of

  19. Why wouldn’t they want to? The beaches are beautiful, the towns and villages have hundreds of interesting and handsome buildings. Why wouldn’t visitors choose Thanet?

  20. Councillors are using AirBnb as the scapegoat to deflect from the fact that they’ve done nothing to improve the social housing stock for years. Why haven’t they forced owners of the 2474 empty properties in Thanet to rent them out or face punitive action.

  21. It’s quite obvious from the posts above those who rent out on Air BnB and who dont….

    Air BnBs should need a license and should need to pay the correct proportion of tax on earnings. They need far more regulation.

    The ole Tories have got themselves in a pickle telling us all to have holidays in the U.K. and then also saying there will be plenty of affordable housing. They can’t promise both because those with Multiple properties will seek the highest earnings for lowest effort. Many buy in areas they don’t live and don’t care. People like this Ian and Cheryl are up in arms as they are piling up the cash from running these lets for people. Whilst locals are evicted or given no chance to rent huge swathes of properties.

    This problem is only going to get worse. This is why governments need to govern and not just ask people to use their common sense.

    Greed over common sense everyday.

  22. Should the council increase council tax for non lived in properties and use the cash raised for housing/support. Another option is a tourist tax that goes to pay for infrastructure eg toilets, cleaning.

    • If people have to pay a tourist tax they will just visit other coastal areas. Why can Hastings Council and Clacton-On-Sea Council provide basics for visitors like tourists but Thanet District Council can’t? It’s an absolute disgrace!

      I think the council tax for unoccupied properties should double every 12 months until they are occupied again.

  23. Looking at councillor Yates’ proposal, specifically limiting air bnb rentals to 90 days, would this lead to increased long term rentals. In my own experience of local holiday accomodation letting, it’s clustered around school holidays, either for summer holidays, Easter getaways or Christmas/NY family get togethers. Excluding half terms that’s roughly 12 weeks of holiday letting, close to the 90 day limit. What will be left for longer term rentals outside the air BnB limit? Nothing longer than a school term,maybe ten weeks or so, that’s not what needs to be achieved to support local renters. The proposal also ignores the fact that landlords can fill up the other 275 days a year on other letting platforms or other means, it’ll be impossible to police and enforce.

  24. Perhaps Rob thinks Thanet could be the new USSR?

    I recognise the issues are complex, but the issue here is lack of affordable social housing for living in. The issue isn’t Air BNB. Tourists use Air BNB properties.

    Long term letting is now hugely taxed with no mortgage relief. Landlords are leaving long term lettings by the drove in favour of Air BnB.

    Private landlords are not responsible for social housing demand and it isn’t immoral to own a rental. That’s like saying you’d never take a job over a certain salary cos it would make you a bad person.

    • Have to agree with all the above paragraphs.

      Know so many landlords/ladies who have recently sold up their letting empires. ok some was very basic accommodation where families have to share the kitchen, wc, bathroom etc.

      Just to add Tdc appear to having a rant maybe to act as a division tactic. Dividing communities has to stop, its morally wrong.

      Anyway tdc has their in house solicitors, who may need to regulate new airbnb lettings.

      Tdc could consider the carrot and stick idea, just using the stick is wrong.

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