You need city permission before using your flat as an Airbnb in Cape Town

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As property prices and tourism continue grow in the Western Cape, an increasing number of home owners have started letting out their property through the Airbnb app.

According to a May 2017 report, the app generated an estimated R2.4 billion in total economic activity across the country in 2016 – the sum of guest spending and host income.

While 26% of these guests spent their time at a Cape Town Airbnb, this number could decrease in the coming months, with the city’s mayco member for transport and urban development, Brett Heron, stating that letting out through Airbnb was not permitted without the city’s consent.

Speaking to the Weekend Argus, Heron encouraged people who knew of contraventions to the municipal planning by-laws to provide details to the city’s law enforcement staff, “who will proceed with legal action if needed/warranted”.

The by-laws do not affect BnBs and guesthouses because the accommodation is provided in a house or second house on a property – but holiday lets cannot be provided from blocks of flats.

“In terms of municipal planning by-laws, a block of flats cannot be used for holiday accommodation or hotel purposes,” said Herron.

“Any owner wishing to do short-term holiday letting from a block of flats, irrespective of the platform facilitating such letting – such as Airbnb or otherwise – must ensure the property is appropriately zoned, and must apply for consent from the city’s development management department.”

Because Airbnb and transient accommodation is a “complicated matter”, Herron advised potential applicants to request pre-application consultation sessions with land-use planners.

Money maker

South Africans welcomed almost 400,000 guest arrivals into their homes in 2016 alone, Airbnb said in May 2017.

This is up from just 38,000 guest arrivals in 2014, and 133,000 in 2015. Airbnb said that 37% of guests in 2016 are South African, with a majority coming from Johannesburg.

As many as 16,000 people played Airbnb host in 2016 in the country. Guests, meanwhile, stayed an average of 4.3 days per trip, the data found.

The typical host on Airbnb in South Africa shares their home for 16 days a year and earns an additional R28,000 a year.

A total of R817 million was earned by Airbnb hosts, with R1.6 billion spent by guests, the group said.