A group of experienced Bristol landlords have been found to own flats being let out at extortionate prices on short-term lets, the Cable can reveal.
According to Land Registry documents, four members of the Baryah family own a building adjacent to an off-licence they run on Fishponds Road, which contains five flats recently listed for a combined total of £18,500 a month.
This is just one example of Bristol landlords cashing in on short-term lets at inflated prices, a worrying trend meaning renters struggling to cope have access to even fewer affordable homes.
The swanky serviced apartments, advertised on Rightmove by agency Keller Williams for between £3,500 and £4,000 a month, are described as “perfect for a break in the city, or for professional working in the area”.
Research by the Cable has found that Jasbir and Gurdip Baryah have 21 licences to rent out properties between them in Bristol alone, and there have been past examples of their tenants living in poor conditions.
Most recently, in 2020, Jasbir Baryah became the target of a campaign by community union ACORN after his tenant allegedly had to deal with extreme damp.
One of those tenants, who spoke to the Cable on condition of anonymity, said they endured a “complete nightmare” when she and her partner moved into a flat in Clifton during the pandemic that was so mouldy that it made them ill. They only moved in based on the promise from the letting agent, Phoenix Properties, that the issue would be sorted, but had to move out months later when it wasn’t. With the help of ACORN, they eventually got a refund on their rent totaling nearly £1,000.
The tenant said they had no direct contact with their landlord, but that he didn’t act to fix the problem. “We should have never been put in that position, it wasn’t liveable. But the landlord didn’t want to spend the money.”
Jasbir and Gurdip Baryah did not respond to the Cable’s request for comment on their use of short-term lets and previous examples of their tenants living in poor conditions.
‘A very attractive option for landlords’
The Baryahs, who have been letting multiple properties in the city for years, are now dabbling in the short-term let market. With nightly rates quoted from £85 up to £135, their flats on Fishponds Road are listed on Rightmove for short- and long-term lets, as well as Booking.com for holidaymakers and Mia Living, which markets luxury properties on short-term lets.
They aren’t the only ones. Cable analysis of Rightmove listings from the first half of 2022 showed more than 100 properties were listed as short-term lets. Unsurprisingly, they feature heavily among the most expensive properties, with many going for more than £2,000 a month for one- and two- bed properties.
Most of these listings are via estate agents Hopewell, which claims landlords could be making 20% more money by letting their property out on a short-term basis. The self-proclaimed experts in this area say this “very attractive option” is “becoming increasingly popular”.
Other examples of properties advertised by Hopewell as short or mid-term lets include £2,650 for a two-bed house in Whitehall and a two-bed apartment for £2,700 in Filton.
Airbnb listings in Bristol compiled in June showed that two-thirds were entire properties rather than private rooms, indicating that the site is overwhelmingly being used by people with second homes, or businesses offering short-term or holiday lets. A total of 37% of listings were by hosts with multiple properties.
There have been recent calls for greater regulation of this. In 2016, London banned Airbnb hosts from letting out entire properties for more than 90 nights in the year, citing the need “to protect London’s existing housing supply, for the benefit of permanent residents”.
No such rules exist outside the capital, but Bristol’s mayor Marvin Rees has recently called on local authorities to be given more powers to combat the “wicked challenge” posed by property owners turning their houses and flats into Airbnb rentals. “We’re concerned – anything that undermines the ability of people to have an affordable, stable home in the city concerns me,” he said.
Bristol West MP Thangam Debonnaire has also expressed her concern about short-term lets and second homes being advertised on Airbnb, saying these are “messing with our market”. She said that large parts of the city centre are full of homes that lie empty most of the time, that Airbnb’s self relegation isn’t working for Bristolians and that councils need greater powers to regulate this issue.
In January, politicians in Scotland approved a national short-term accommodation scheme that will require landlords to register properties from October. And now the UK government has released a consultation on the impact of short-term lets and the potential introduction of a tourist accommodation registration scheme in England.
Dan Wilson Craw, deputy director at Generation Rent, said: “Holiday lets are a lucrative business and landlords can often get more income from letting their property to tourists over the summer than letting to tenants year-round, so that’s sucking homes out of the long-term market and pushing up rents.
“It’s welcome to see action from governments in Scotland and England on registration,” he added. “We need those systems to block criminal landlords from continuing their business, and local councils should have the power to set a limit on holiday lets in their patch.”
Wilson Craw also stressed the need for taxation that encourages landlords to make homes available for people who need one to live in, such as higher council tax for holiday homes, and closing the loophole that allows holiday let operators claim tax relief against their mortgage interest.
When flats in Bristol are being rented out for £4,000 a month, but thousands of renters in Bristol are struggling to afford to live or find somewhere in the first place, it’s clear something has gone badly wrong.
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