A COUNCIL is taking a bold step to rid Oxford of Airbnb-style lets being exploited for parties and pop-up brothels.

Oxford City Council is urging landlords to voluntarily apply for planning permission, if they let out an entire house on a short-term basis for more than 140 nights a year.

There is currently no national law that explicitly states such landlords need permission, but the council anticipates such a policy might be enforced, as the 'tide turns' on hundreds of unregulated homes-for-hire in the city.

Linda Smith, deputy leader of the council, said: "We have seen houses rented through short-let websites used as brothels and for loud parties.

"Short-lets are currently a grey area of the law – there is little regulation to enable local authorities to protect communities from unlawful use of the houses.

"The tide is turning and it seems increasingly likely that the Government will have to act."

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She said short-lets had 'exacerbated Oxford's housing crisis' and further hiked up rents, as it means fewer houses are available.

In summer the council had to ban a Headington property from short-let rentals, after complaints of antisocial behaviour.

The authority is not concerned with homeowners who rent out a room - just those who let out entire houses.

On just one short-let website alone, the council found more than 300 entire homes in Oxford for hire.

Another site says of a luxury Oxford listing: "No need to get intellectual in highbrow Oxford. This is the University of Party Central.

"These are spaces designed for playboys and playgirls.

"It’s a home for dinner parties, reunions, hens and celebrations."

In 2017, Airbnb revealed that more than 80,000 people from 136 countries had used its app to stay in the city.

Currently, landlords have to apply for planning permission when there is a 'material change' in the use of their property.

That phrase has proved to be ambiguous, however, and authorities are not automatically notified when entire homes become used for short-terms lets.

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Industry leader Airbnb, one of the best-known websites for short-term lets, is calling for the Government to tighten regulations, and require planning permission for rentals that exceed 140 nights a year.

Speaking last month, Patrick Robinson, Airbnb's director of public policy, said: "We want to be good partners to cities and work together on a host registration system that is easy to follow, gives authorities the information they need to regulate home-sharing effectively, and that ultimately makes communities stronger."

The city council has backed this call, and said there could be a 'rush' on applications if the government does change policy, urging landlords to get theirs in as soon as possible.

The authority revealed that in August, it ordered a short-let property to cease its operations after a complaint about 'antisocial behaviour and nuisance.'

It issued a planning enforcement notice against the property, in William Street in Headington, after finding it was 'in breach of planning legislation.'

It it is considering similar action against at least three other landlords, who are also operating short-term lets on entire properties in Oxford throughout the year.

Ms Smith, city councillor for Blackbird Leys, said: "We are calling on short-let landlords who rent out an entire house in Oxford for more than 140 nights a year to immediately seek planning permission."

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In London, landlords are already required to seek planning permission, if they are letting out an entire house on a short-let basis for more than 90 nights a year.

Scottish Parliament has just completed a consultation on regulating the short-let sector.

Oxford City Council hopes similar regulation within its boundaries would reduce the impact of short-lets on the local housing market and the community.

It would also mean the authority could compile a database of homes, making landlords more accountable and ensuring that the use of short-term lets is not abused.

Airbnb has also proposed that the details of landlords who rent out their entire house on a short-term basis, for between 28 and 139 nights a year, should be kept on a national register.

This could be accessed by local authorities, enabling them to keep track of when homes convert to short-term lets and to contact them should they need to.

The entire number of Oxford short-let listings is not known, with an array of websites offering a platform through which to market homes.