Problems caused by flats being let to short-stay visitors in London have increased, with the growth of booking-only websites such as AirBnB. Their activity has have led to toughening-up of laws in cities all over the world.
Legal position in London
Short letting of your whole home is generally illegal in London. It is usually forbidden in your property deeds, leasehold agreement or tenancy agreement anyway. But even if that is not the case, the only time that it’s legal to let your home is if you are away temporarily, and if you do not do so for more than a total of 90 days in any year *.
And it is illegal to rent out a property on short lets at all if it is not your home.
Information for people renting out their homes
The Covent Garden Community Association supports residents who want to earn some extra income by renting out a room while they are there, or who can legitimately rent out their whole properties while they are away. But we need to be aware of what can go wrong without you knowing anything about it until it’s too late. There have been many cases of people returning home from holiday to find their neighbours up in arms because their flat has been used for late-night partying, and in some cases the police have been called. There have been over 50 people and a band playing all night in a 1 bedroom flat. The person the resident rented to may sound fine, but that person has then sub-let it on another website, and even advertised it as an event space rather than as accommodation.
If you are intending to rent out your home while you are away, please adhere the following code of conduct:
- Tell your neighbours in advance!
- Make sure that your tenants know all the rules and idiosyncracies of your building so that they do not disturb anyone. Outside spaces like balconies can be particularly sensitive if people use them at night, or if people smoke when neighbouring windows are open.
- Ask your tenants to treat the common parts with respect, and to lock the doors shut.
- Remind your tenants that, although they may be in holiday mood, the people around them are going about their daily working lives.
- Make arrangements for your neighbours to be able to contact you at any time while you are away in case of problems. If this is not possible, please engage a service provider who can respond 24/7, or use a site such as OneFineStay who can take care of this, not a site like AirBnB which takes no responsibility beyond just making the booking.
- Double-check your deeds, lease or tenancy agreement to establish whether you are allowed to sublet for short periods of time.
- Never be tempted to over-crowd your home. We have seen a 1 bedroom flat advertised as accommodating 8 people! But even in less extreme cases, if there are more people there than you would normally have, it is far more likely to lead to trouble. And if your property causes trouble then the local authority can prevent it from ever being used for short lets again.
What to do if you are affected
If you are seeing problems caused by a property which you believe is being let out against the law, please provide us with evidence and we will add it to our list for enforcement by the local authorities. This can lead to a fine of about £20,000.
If you believe that a property is being let out legally, but it is causing you acute problems, then we will add it to our list for enforcement by the local authorities in order to prevent it being used for any short lets again.
You may be interested in other information:
http://insideairbnb.com/london/ which maps properties listed on AirBnB and gives statistics.
A presentation given by CGCA on behalf of the amenity societies of Central London at a Greater London Assembly symposium that included industry players such as AirBnB. This includes data about the massive effects on the West End – with about 20% of housing lost to tourist letting, and up to 80% of some blocks being devoid of ‘real residents’.
* The law is laid down in section 25 of the Greater London Council (General Powers) Act 1973 as amended by sections 44-45 of the Deregulation Act 2015.