As the public prepares to flock to tourist attractions and holiday hotspots this jubilee weekend, new data shows there are almost two dozen homes newly registered as holiday lets in Wirral – despite concern over the impact of increased tourism on some communities nationally.
The coronavirus pandemic has led to a boom in "staycationing", with prices for holiday accommodation rocketing in tourist hotspots, and many seeking to capitalise by converting their second homes into holiday lets.
New figures from the Government’s Valuation Office Agency, provided by property experts Altus Group, show there were 44 holiday lets in Wirral trading as businesses as of the end of May – 23 more than in mid-March 2020, before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
The figures cover second homes which are registered as commercial premises – meaning they must be made available for at least 140 days each year– but does not include other second homes used for private holiday lets.
Groups have highlighted the increased pressure of the uptick in tourism on some communities – particularly those in rural and coastal areas – such as increased rent and stretched local services
Across England and Wales, nearly 20,000 new homes have been newly registered as holiday lets over the course of the pandemic – there are now 83,342 nationally.
The impact has not been felt evenly – highly visited areas such as the South-West of England, Wales and Yorkshire and the Humber have seen the highest growth in holiday lets, with over 2,500 new holiday homes registered in Cornwall alone.
Altus Group says the national rise may be due to people ‘flipping’ their second homes – converting them into holiday lets to avoid paying council tax.
Owners of holiday lets in England can claim 100% business rates relief if the property has a rateable value of up to £12,000, and will also not have to pay council tax. They do not need to prove the property has actually been let out to claim the tax break.
In January the Government announced it was clamping down on the holiday let tax loophole, telling second homeowners they will have to prove their properties are rented out for a minimum of 70 days a year in order to access small business rates relief.
Generation Rent, a charity that campaigns for fair housing, said there were “countless” stories of tenants being evicted to make way for a holiday let.
The charity's deputy director, Dan Wilson Craw, said: “The popularity of domestic holidays last year, combined with the lack of regulation and tax advantages, has fuelled the appetite for holiday homes and deprived renters of places to live.
“Taking homes out of the residential market prices out people who want to settle down in the place they grew up.
"That destroys communities and starves local businesses of workers."
Records from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities from September 2021 show there were 605 properties registered as second homes for council tax purposes in Wirral.
Secretary of state for levelling up Michael Gove said the Government wanted to encourage “responsible” short-term letting.
“We will not stand by and allow people in privileged positions to abuse the system by unfairly claiming tax relief and leaving local people counting the cost," he said.
“The action we are taking will create a fairer system, ensuring that second homeowners are contributing their share to the local services they benefit from.”