An online lettings agency in Cornwall has been ordered to cease offering holiday homes to let in the county in what is thought to be the first company in the industry to face such enforcement action during the Coronavirus crisis.
The lettings agency, which has not been named, has now ordered all guests to leave and cancelled all upcoming bookings, although comments on social media suggest one family refused to leave and had to more forcibly coerced into going home.
Enforcement officers from Cornwall Council have been busy since a dedicated service was launched last Friday to enable members of the public to report lettings agencies, holiday cottages, campsites and caravan parks that were flouting lockdown legislation.
Since then over 200 complaints have been made against such businesses including hosts on Airbnb.
“Our officers are phoning businesses to investigate complaints, followed up with written warnings,” said Cornwall Council leader Julian German in a statement. “Onsite visits are made when businesses fail to comply or evidence is needed.
“There are a number of exemptions which allow some holiday lets businesses to remain open, for example to provide accommodation for key workers, NHS staff and for health and care use.
“We’re requesting people reporting accommodation providers who may be breaking the law to give as much information as possible including a precise address, the name of the accommodation or owner and a telephone number or email address if known.”
The council’s actions, which have been backed up by the county’s tourism authority and police force, follow rising anger among locals that many second home owners were ‘escaping’ cities like London to visit their holiday properties, while others were still completing holidays booked before the crisis began.