Airbnb helps council to catch social housing sub-letters

Airbnb helps council to catch social housing sub-letters

8:45 AM, 25th August 2022, About 2 years ago

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Airbnb is working with a council to stop social housing tenants from using the site to illegally sublet their homes.

The short-term rental platform will give payment data to the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea who believe that some tenants are renting out their properties on the platform to tourists.

And, if this process is successful, it could be used by other London authorities in a bid to tackle housing fraud.

Kensington and Chelsea Council says this is a ‘major victory’ in tackling tenancy fraud and the critical information can be used for future criminal proceedings and legal action against fraudsters.

Airbnb is to share payments data for two estates in North Kensington and the data sharing will take place under a court order because of GDPR requirements.

The move will see the council take enforcement steps having obtained the evidence.

‘Councils are already busy using artificial intelligence’

However, Phil Turtle, the compliance director with Landlord Licensing and Defence, said: “Councils are already busy using artificial intelligence which pulls together 20 or so of their own databases from council tax to nuisance complaints and waste collection.

“Many are now also starting to pull in external data from EPC and Gas Safety registers.”

He added: “This ‘deal’ to access Airbnb data signals a very worrying move by cynical councils to access more and more external data in their relentless drive to prosecute and fine landlords out of existence.”

‘Huge demand for social housing in our borough’

Cllr Kim-Taylor Smith, the council’s lead member for housing, said: “There is a huge demand for social housing in our borough and it’s simply not fair that people in genuine need are being denied a place to call home because others are illegally subletting their council properties to make money.

“Tenancy fraud is not a victimless crime. It costs the public purse an average of £42,000 a year for each home and this welcome collaboration with Airbnb will help us to clamp down on it in our borough.”

While the court order applies to two estates in North Kensington, Airbnb and the council are working together to stamp out illegal subletting activity in social housing across the borough.

‘We want to work with councils’

Theo Lomas, Airbnb’s head of government relations, said: “Hosting in subsidised or social housing in the UK is illegal and has no place on Airbnb and we want to work with councils to remove social housing.

“However, the current situation is complex and costly, and requires a court order to avoid breaking GDPR rules.”

He added: “This is yet another example of the need for the UK to update its rules and introduce a single registration system, so authorities have the information they need to tackle bad actors and return housing to those in need.”

Civil fraud expert, Andrew Herring of Pinsent Masons, who advised the Council, said: “Thanks to Kensington and Chelsea Council’s fresh thinking in regard to tackling tenancy fraud, we’ve been able to apply civil fraud court procedures in a new and innovative way – supporting data-led public sector efforts to investigate and combat fraud and setting a precedent for others to follow.”

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