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Relaxing the rules on ‘short-term lets’ - what Westminster residents

think
Report by Karen Buck MP

The Government is using the Deregulation Bill, currently going through Parliament, to relax the
rules on short-term letting. Arguing that homeowners should be freed up from regulations,
Ministers will allow properties to be let for three months a year without permission having to be
sought.
Although no-one wants petty bureaucracy to stop homeowners wanting to do a ‘holiday
homeswap’, for example, it is a fact that illegal short-term letting is already a serious problem in
central London, and relaxing the rules may make this worse. Westminster Council estimate that
some 3000 properties are already given over to short-lets, and they have to devote considerable
resources to dealing with associated problems. There has been cross-party opposition to the
Government’s proposals from inner London councils for these reasons.
I wrote to residents in some of those areas most likely to be affected to see what they thought.
Here is what they told me:
Question 1: The government is making it easier for householders to rent their properties
out for up to 90 days without needing permission.
Although this is intended to free people up to do holiday home-swaps or earn some extra
money by letting out their homes for the summer, many people are concerned that this
could lead to more problems in areas like Westminster.
These problems include:
• Reducing the stock of homes for people who need somewhere to live.
• Making neighbourhoods less stable and undermining communities.
• Generating noise, rubbish and nuisance for residents in blocks or streets where there is
a lot of short-term letting.
• Making it more difficult and expensive for councils like Westminster to enforce the law.
What do you think?
The main concern expressed by residents was that the community had become less stable, due
the constant turnover of tenants, and this in turn encouraged anti-social behaviour. The supply
of permanent homes will also be reduced, as it was recognised that many property owners can
earn far more from visitors than from longer-term letting.
“It's likely this will reduce house supply in an already tight housing market.”(W9)
“Invitation to rogue landlords to have high tenant turnover without tenant protection. People who want to
do home swaps or have a live in house sitter do it anyway.” (W9)
“More crime, more drug dealers. More junk mail and post. More anti-social behaviour and no
consideration of people who love and care for their home and community”
Issues such as prostitution and drug dealing were seen to be linked to short-lets and it was
acknowledged that great effort had been put into dealing with these problems in recent years,

with considerable success. However, relaxing the rules could make it harder to enforce action in
future.
“This must be opposed in this area or all of London. I agree completely with this list of issues. It should
be the reverse - you can’t let for less than 6 months or longer, to give tenants some security and help create
some community.”
“I agree with all of the above as an owner occupier in Maida Vale. In my opinion it will be extremely
difficult for Local Authorities to enforce / control and could lead to other issues for people in particular
areas.”
“More noise, rubbish and nuisance. Loss of long-term neighbours, more strangers, loss of neighbourhood
life. Lack of care of short-term landlords and renters about the street, lack of knowledge when there is a
problem, lack of care about other local people”
The vast majority of those opposing de-regulation emphasised the fact that short-stay tenants
simply didn’t feel the same responsibilities as longer-term residents - they are more likely to
cause noise and other nuisance, leave doors open and be less aware of their neighbours. Even if
they weren’t anti-social themselves, the high turnover of residents creates more rubbish and lowlevel damage, and reduces security.
“More noise, rubbish and nuisance from short-term visitors. Fewer permanent residents, which is bad for
community life.” (NW1)
“Mainly nuisance due to a complete disregard for the standards and values maintained by permanent
residents.”
“There is a particular problem of rubbish disposal, dropping it generally and around black bins, on the
pavements.” (W2)
“Even though many appear to be for longer, with a lot of subletting, in fact often they are for shorter than
3 months. It’s hard to police these and it’s very difficult to know your neighbours, so lack of a quiet and
caring community” (W9)
“As an Inverness Terrace resident the area is already plagued by hostels, hotels and service apartments.
Those short-term tenants have no regard for the area, they are often drunk , noisy and anti social”
“The Board of Directors and managing agents of the block of flats where I live work hard to ensure that
all lessees follow the strict rules about subletting set out in our leases. This tight management has enabled
us to rid the block of brothels, drug dens, illegal short-lets and every other contravention of the lease,
common to blocks such as ours in Central London. Quite often this has happened with the support of
WCC. If the law now permits use of flats as holiday short-let, it will be at odds with our lease and could
provide a way in to all of the abuses we have managed to eradicate in the past. I believe the management
boards of most blocks of flats throughout Westminster will share our concerns.” (Marylebone)
There were, naturally, some respondents who felt strongly that controls should be relaxed and
that home-owners should be free to do what they wish with their own property.
“Short-letting my property has allowed me to keep up my mortgage without being a high income earner,
meaning that there are more of us "normal" people in the area, loving it, using it, contributing to its
economy and keeping it vibrant. The guests I have hosted have been a joy and extremely respectful in
every way.”
“People absolutely should be able to rent out their own homes to earn a little extra income; it will not
affect noise or rubbish and certainly makes no difference to the stock of homes for people to live. It's your

own home which you have paid for and care for and if it causes no harm to others why ever not. People
will pay tax on this money and perhaps stop them seeking benefits; I have a friend who does this and it is
paying for her re-training.”
Others were not opposed to relaxing the rules in principle, but wanted tough safeguards:
“Am inclined to answer 'yes, but with tough safeguards' however, it depends what the safeguards were,
and if they qualified as 'tough' and did not allow loopholes for landlords to take advantage of relaxed
rules.” (W2)
Question 2: “Should residents be able to rent their homes out for up to 3 months without
needing permission?” The responses can be found in the chart below.

RENTING HOMES WITHOUT PERMISSION
Yes

No

Yes, but with safeguards

28

20

57

The majority of the constituents are against having residents rent their homes for up three
months without permission. Some responses said three months is too long, while others said it
should be allowed for up to six months. Others said that there should not be a burden on the
Council and police to enforce these measures, because it is a cost to the taxpayer.
“I would say the focus should not be aimed at those who are looking for short-term rents or those who live
in short term properties, rather the landlords. It is vital that landlords do not raise the price of
accommodation for the 3 month lets, as affordable housing is rapidly disappearing in London.”

Question 3: “What do you think the impact will be locally?” The responses can be found in
the chart below.
12

8

Local Impact
No Impact

77

61
More pressure on housing as landlords take
advantage of relaxed rules to turn more
properties into short-term lets
More noise, rubbish and nuisance from short
term visitors
Fewer permanent residents, which is bad for
community life
Other

79

Question 4: “Will the new rules make it easier or harder for the Council to enforce the
rules and to make sure householders only let for three months a year?” The responses can
be found in the chart below.

Will it be eaiser or harder to take action
against problem properties?
82
9
Easier

Harder

The vast majority of people agreed it would be harder for the Council in future, because the
relaxation of the rules will encourage more short-lets. It may also be harder to prove illegal subletting as the Council will need to demonstrate that the 90 days rule has been breached and not
merely that letting is taking place at all.
Some respondents expressed the view that a 3 month sublet would not be long enough to cause
problems, and others thought that, as the Council was even now having to spend time and
money enforcing the rules now, changing the rules to make short-lets of up to 90 days
legal,might actually reduce the need for enforcement.
“I do not think it is a problem to let for up to 90 days per year. You are also painting a nuisance picture
of people who use holiday lets, and I think that this is not accurate. Not everyone is noisy or a nuisance.

Neighbourhoods are more threatened by selling properties to overseas investors. This is something that
should be curbed. I think I read that 3/4 of sales in Westminster last year were to overseas buyers.”
Question 5 “What has been your experience (if any) of living in an area with short-let
properties?”

Are you currently affected by short-lets where you
live?
28

74

Yes

No

Most people replying to the survey who live in affected areas already experience disadvantages actual (noise, rubbish) and perceived (greater insecurity, less neighbourliness). It was felt that
short-term visitors did not care for the property or necessarily follow house rules, leading to
damage to communal areas. Many residents noted a rise in crime of various sorts, vandalism,
rudeness and threatening behaviour - visitors responded badly to being challenged even though
the management of many of the blocks of flats involved rely on residents not admitting people
who don’t normally live there, for example.
“I agree that this will increase problems related to noise and nuisance for Westminster residents from the
short-let tenants. It's already happening within my own apartment block, and I've had to complain to the
Westminster Council 24hour noise hotline due to loud parties and excessive noise every week from shortlet tenants in my block. This is making me want to sell my home and move to a safer, quieter
neighbourhood outside of Westminster.”
“I think it would escalate noise pollution, rubbish problems and nuisance for residents of blocks where
there is short-term letting. It would definitely make it more difficult and expensive for councils like
Westminster to enforce the law.” (Queensway)
“Absolute nightmare, noise, rudeness. Never knowing who is a resident, arriving home in the early hours,
parties no thought or consideration for their neighbours”
Others raised wider security concerns, pointing out that hotels keep a register of guests, whereas
flats that are let informally do not.

“Some people in the flat above me rent out on a short term basis, different people are constantly coming
and going, rubbish is left on the pavement and not put in the bins, the door to the front of my flat block is
often left propped open, it is just generally a security risk. It is bad enough that the percentage of flats in
my block are rented which means that there is very little community, without it being on a much shorter
term basis.” (Maida Vale)
The overwhelming majority of the residents who replied to me had concerns about the impact of
de-regulation, with the risk that more and more properties will become a part of the ‘hospitality
industry’ rather than providing homes for people. I am grateful to all those who replied for
giving me such detailed feedback on their views. This information has informed my
Parliamentary debate and will continue to shape the further representations I am making to
government.
Karen Buck MP