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UK government gives AirBnB free rein in London

Ministers to abolish decades-old property laws

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Ministers are about to slash laws that have prevented homeowners in London from legally renting out their properties to visitors via platforms like America’s AirBnB and the Britain’s OneFineStay.

The laws, which date back to the 1970s and ban short-term rentals in the capital, will be quashed by communities secretary Eric Pickles today.

Prior to today, Londoners wishing to rent out their homes for less than three months had to apply for planning permission from the council or risk up to a £20,000 fine.

“The internet is changing the way we work and live, and the law needs to catch up. We have already reformed the rules on renting out your unused parking spaces, now we want to do the same regarding renting out your home for a short period,” said Pickles.

Since launching in 2008 in California, AirBnB has disrupted the accommodation market by providing a trusted community marketplace for people to list and book accommodation around the world, online or through a mobile phone. It includes many unique properties, including over 600 castles.

The spotlight was shone on AirBnB during the 2012 London Olympics when its usage grew as Londoners rented spare rooms to tourists.

“It’s time to change the outdated, impractical and restrictive laws from the 1970s, open up London’s homes to visitors and allow Londoners to make some extra cash,” added Pickles.

AirBnB, which achieved a $10 billion (£6 billion) valuation in April following a $450 million (£267 million) funding round, is facing legal questions in a number of cities, including its home town of San Francisco and New York.

Several other apps and websites have aimed to replicate AirBnB’s model of renting out unused homes, bedrooms and driveways.

The reforms to home rental rules are set to be outlined in the upcoming Deregulation Bill.

Hotels around the world have been quick to highlight AirBnB's illegality, largely because the start-up is taking their customers and eating into their revenues. 

Disruptive apps in other fields include online food delivery service Just-Eat.com and taxi app Uber, with London's black cab drivers set to protest against the latter this Wednesday by causing grid-lock on the capital's streets. 



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