COUNCILLORS have demanded the Government start charging business rates to people who rent out their properties on Airbnb.

Brighton and Hove City Council has adopted a motion claiming it “does not possess the powers to intervene and regulate” Airbnb properties, which are rented privately by holidaymakers through the firm’s app.

So chief executive Geoff Raw will write to the Government requesting it to charge business rates, which usually cost about half a property’s annual rentable value.

Councillor Jackie O’Quinn said Airbnb had an unfair advantage compared with hotels and regular B&Bs.

“Hotels and B&Bs must be licensed by councillors, but Airbnb houses don’t need licensing,” she said.

“Airbnb hosts make money the same way as hotels and other B&Bs. That’s why they should pay business rates.

“It’s very unfair competition.”

Cllr O’Quinn also worried the popularity of Airbnbs would lead to more homes lying empty.

“Put a flat on Airbnb is essentially taking it out of the market for local people,” she said. “It’s like in Cornwall where you can go to towns where most of the houses are second homes.”

But 65-year-old Gina Crockett, who rents a spare room in her Kemp Town house using Airbnb, said the app was a vital source of income for many in the city.

“I started using Airbnb because I hadn’t been able to earn enough,” she said.

“I’d only had a part-time job and wasn’t able to get a full-time job, so I need Airbnb to live.

“I’m a bit shocked about the idea of paying business rates but I thought the time would come eventually.

“Hotels and regular B&Bs don’t like it when people start making a bit of money from their spare rooms.

“I’ll never be able to afford business rates. I’m recovering from three surgeries, so if I don’t have this I won’t be able to earn enough otherwise.”

The city council believes introducing business rates for properties could be part of the solution to “party houses” – Airbnb homes which are rented by revellers to celebrate in.

Ms Crockett said three such houses existed in her street, with hen parties every single weekend.

“I don’t mind it so much though, it doesn’t bother me,” she said.

Meanwhile tourism expert Dr Ioannis Pantelidis said Airbnb was “bad news for hoteliers”.

“Airbnb hosts are effectively adding more rooms in the market without having to occur the relevant costs a hotelier or B&B owner would normally incur in business rates,” the University of Brighton professor said.

“This makes them more competitive for consumers.

“For example, at peak seasons hotels would traditionally make more profits, but now they have to compete with even more suppliers, so in order to remain competitive they drop their prices.”

An Airbnb spokesman said the firm “helps spread and diversify tourism in Brighton while extending benefits to local families and businesses”.