Just Planning

Planners targeting Airbnb landlords with Enforcement Notices

A record number of people visiting family and friends take advantage of cheap and flexible Airbnb rentals, as the short-lets website continues its explosive growth in the UK.

However, the site’s success is creating a backlash as neighbours complain about noise and disturbance, and the battle is moving to local council planning departments.

Renting out your home for short periods of time does not normally need planning permission – it is still a family dwelling. However, permanent use of a property for short term lets – especially on a scale that may affect neighbours – is likely to be considered a change of use, requiring consent.

Council planners have been reluctant to test their powers in this area, but in 2016 Just Planning saw a 415% increase in enquiries from short-let landlords who have been asked by an enforcement officer to cease letting their property on a short-term basis. Failure to comply with a notice is an offence and subject to a fine of up to £20,000.

In London, there is specific legislation to limits short term lets to no more than 90 nights per year, unless full planning permission is obtained. There are no such controls outside of the capital, meaning planning officers must decide on a case-by-case basis whether the short-term letting activity is causing unreasonable harm to neighbours. This creates confusion and uncertainty for landlords, who face a postcode lottery of enforcement.

It is likely that 2017 will see councils up and down the country gain more confidence about using their planning powers to more effectively control this part of the sharing economy, and Just Planning expects planning applications and appeals relating to short-term lets to be the fastest growing part of its business over the next 12 months.

Most enforcement investigations are triggered by a neighbour’s complaint. Keeping your neighbours happy is the first step to avoiding an enforcement investigation:

  • Exercise strict control over who rents your property and the number of people who stay (no late night partygoers, no hen or stag parties)
  • Meet new tenants at the beginning of each let to emphasise to importance of considerate behaviour
  • Have strict rules communicated to prospective tenants in advance of their booking
  • Airbnb allows landlords to rate their tenants – avoid prospective tenants with poor ratings or no history of previous lets

Enforcement Notices are not the only problems Airbnb landlords face. Some flat leases specifically prohibit short-term lets, and owners should also check the terms of their mortgage and insurance policies. Council Environmental Health Teams also have powers to take action against statutory noise nuisances.

If your Council has contacted you about short term lettings, and especially if you have received an enforcement notice relating to the use of your property, contact us now.

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