Lessons from New York: How much should the UK restrict short-term lets?

20 November 2023

New York recently imposed drastic new rules for short-term lets - with an immediate impact. So, how far should the UK government go?

Short-term lets in England, Scotland, and Wales are faced with an assortment of new regulations, from a tourist accommodation register in England to new licensing schemes in Scotland and Wales. Yet, none have gone as far as in New York's recent crackdown on short-term lets.

The new rules

New York City's new rules include needing the host to be living in the home and present for lets of under 30 days. That means whole apartments can't be rented out.

It stops hosts renting to more than two guests at a time, and hosts also have to register with the city to legally rent out their properties.

The aim of the new rules is to address New York's housing supply and rent price issues, and concerns around the anti-social behaviour of those that rent short-term accommodation.

Counter-arguments to the benefits of these restrictions suggest that it will deter tourists from visiting, with fewer options available to them.

Locals that “rely on home sharing and tourism dollars to help make ends meet” will also see a negative impact, according to Airbnb's Global Policy Director, Theo Yedinsky.

The immediate impact of the restrictions

The regulations launched on 5 September 2023. In the month leading up to this, Airbnb recorded a 70% drop in short-term rentals listed, from 22,000 to 6,841, according to data collected by Wired.

This figure isn't all that it seems. The number of long-term listings jumped by nearly 200%, across the same period, from 11,000 to 32,612.

This suggests that many short-term listings simply switched to advertising for stays of 30 days or more, to escape the new rules.

Of course, that doesn't mean that these properties have now become full-time homes for those looking to live in the city, but it is a move in the right direction in line with the city's aim to help long-term housing supply.

The UK's approach so far

The UK is not planning anything quite so drastic against short-term lets, yet it is making moves to regulate the sector more closely - citing housing supply and anti-social behaviour as two of the reasons.

In Scotland, licensing is in place for all short-term let hosts, while Wales is consulting on a similar proposal. England is planning a registration scheme for tourist accommodation.

On top of that, new planning permission rules will give councils in areas seeing an impact on housing supply more say in whether properties can convert into short-term lets.

Plus, Airbnb owners and guests could face tougher penalties for anti-social behaviour according to the government's Anti-Social Behaviour Action Plan.

"A drop in the ocean"

In Edinburgh, hosts took the council to court over the licensing scheme, which they label a "de facto ban" on short-term lets, targeting small businesses.

Shelter has called the scheme a "drop in the ocean" in the face of a 38,500 shortfall in the number of required social homes.

The results of the experiment in New York could therefore be closely monitored by many local regions around the globe as they assess the impact of the new rules on supply.

If the trend of a shift to long-term lets continues, this may spur governments to introduce similar more stringent measures in the not too distant future. 

Further reading