Your guide to the registration scheme consultation for short-term and holiday lets in England

25 July 2022

The government has launched its tourist accommodation registration scheme consultation, to understand the challenges of the short let sector in England and how to fix them.

Short-term and holiday lets are booming, with a 40% increase in the number of holiday lets in England since 2018, according to BBC figures. As the sector continues to expand, the government has launched a call for evidence around a potential register for tourist accommodation. 

Originally promised back in 2021 as part of the Tourism Recovery Plan, the consultation aims to "develop proportionate proposals, addressing the challenges whilst preserving the benefits."

What industry challenges does the consultation address?

To help the tourism industry "reach its full potential in every region", the consultation outlines four challenges in the short lets sector that it hopes to find a solution for:

  • Inadequate data about the size and nature of the sector, which makes enforcement difficult
  • An "unlevel playing field" in how current regulations are applied and enforced, especially for key health and safety legislation
  • The impact on housing supply and anti-social behaviour
  • Regional differences in the impact of the above three challenges

What will the call for evidence consider?

The call for evidence will therefore look into potential solutions for the challenges outlined above as well as collect information and industry sentiment on the below:

  • The growth of the short-term letting market
  • The benefits of short-term lets
  • The potential impact of different policy responses

To accomplish this, the call for evidence asks for more information around levels of compliance with health and safety legislation, such as gas and fire safety. It will also look into whether some hosts of guest accommodation may be breaching their mortgage agreements and therefore invalidating their insurances by accepting guests.

Similarly, in light of the lack of data available for the sector, the government aims to collect more concrete evidence of the impact of short-lets on rental housing supply, price, and the local labour supply too, especially in tourist hotspots.

What policy options has the government outlined?

As well as the option to "do nothing", the government has outlined five possible responses to the challenges, with varying levels of regulation for the industry:

  1. Provide the sector with more information, such as a booklet setting out all the legal requirements for short-term lets
  2. Build a self-certification registration scheme, which means providers would have to register before they could operate any services, with no third party checks
  3. Develop a similar registration scheme, but with "light-touch checks"
  4. Develop a licensing scheme with physical checks to make sure all regulations were being followed
  5. Look into alternatives to a registration system, such as applying s.44 of the Deregulation Act 2015, as is the case in London, limiting the number of days properties can be let out on a short-term basis without planning permission

The Renters' Reform Bill proposes a landlord property portal - a register in all but name - and, if this consultation concludes that a register is the right way forwards for short let properties, the government plans to tie together the two projects.

How are short-term lets already regulated in England?

London is the only city where there is a 90-day limit for short-term lets before planning permission is required, to help reduce pressures on the housing supply in the area.

For the rest of England, tax regulations will change to only allow second homeowners to access small business rate relief on homes rented out for a minimum of 70 days per year, rather than pay council tax, from April 2023.

Plans to give councils more powers to impose higher rates of council tax on empty and second homes are also in the works.

This article is intended as a guide only and does not constitute legal advice. For more information, visit gov.uk.

Further reading