Westminster Council’s ruling Labour Group is calling for extensive new rules to control nuisance that can be caused by the City’s 12,000 short-term lets. Currently the council receives over 30 complaints every week.
Short-term lets in Westminster are rapidly rising to pre-pandemic levels, when the city counted over 13,000 properties being used as holiday rentals and temporary music venues. The council now estimates there are currently around 12,000 short-term lets in Westminster which is more than any other London borough.
The Labour-run council is demanding that the Government implements registration rules and returns to pre-2015 planning regulations in an attempt to combat the anti-social behaviour short-term lettings cause in many of our neighbourhoods.
In properties like Park West apartments on Edgware Road, 90% of the flats in this building were being used as short term lets, accommodating more tourists per night than the Ritz Hotel. The council receives 28 complaints each week from residents about noisy temporary tenants using short-term lets, and currently has 500 active investigations. A fifth of these investigations relate to breaches of the 90-night limit residential properties can be used for short-term letting, and the rest being enforcement notices against noise, littering and antisocial behaviour.
Residents have told the council they are feeling unsafe due to the rise of short-term lets in their area and temporary tenants undermine communities by coming and going through the night and leaving rubbish on the streets.
One resident contacted the council as 200 people arrived at a flat in Brewer Street and police were called amid reports of “loud music, shouting and screaming”. The resident told us: “They started a loud party soon after 11pm with loud music above us. It is not the first time; they make any sleep impossible.”
Another resident living in Marylebone said: “Every time I leave the apartment or come back home, there are random people sitting on the doorsteps and in corridors. Our flat raised it as a concern to our landlord, but we didn’t get any explanation on why this is happening.”
The council has been calling for more powers which would increase its ability to tackle the issues caused by short-term lets which can have a negative impact on our communities and the availability and affordability of homes for local people. The Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has the power to introduce a mandatory registration scheme and must do so urgently. A mandatory registration scheme, which would see all units registered before being used for short-term letting, would give the council the power to take action against irresponsible hosts who allow fly tipping, noise and other disruption that can ruin the lives of neighbours.
Local authorities also need the powers to control the proliferation of short term lets as they pose a threat to the already limited residential housing available to local people. The government has proposed to introduce a new use class for short-term letting which if approved could mean 12,000 homes would be removed from the residential market. This problem is further exacerbated as short-term lets have tax advantages for owners compared to the rental sector, incentivising landlords to transition their properties to short-term lets. Without giving local authorities powers to control the numbers of short-term lets the government’s proposals would lead to a catastrophic loss of homes.
Pre-2015 planning regulations previously allowed local authorities to limit the number of nights a landlord could use their residential properties for short-term lets to 90 per year. With the new use class, there is no such limit and the ability of councils to regulate the negative impact of short-term lets on local communities will be diminished.
Cllr Paul Dimoldenberg, Cabinet Member for City Management and Air Quality, said:
“Unlawful Airbnb-type short term lets cause massive problems with waste left scattered along our streets in plastic bags, and landlords dumping unwanted furniture and household items on street corners. To add insult to injury, some of the short term lets are used as noisy party venues attracting scores of guests, or worse, as brothels with a constant stream of ‘customers’. We urgently need a short-lets registration scheme and greater powers on regulation and enforcement.”
Cllr Adam Hug, Leader of Westminster City Council, said:
“Our residents are tired of interrupted sleep, mess, and in many cases, antisocial behaviour and crime caused by visitors who are in the city for a night or two.
Additionally to causing a nuisance to our residents, the rise of short-term lets has created an uneven playing field for many of Westminster’s hospitality firms, where traditional providers pay business rates, corporation tax and comply with regulations, in stark contrast to the small business exemptions enjoyed by short-term lets.
We are calling on the government to go beyond a registration scheme and return to pre-2015 planning policy. This would give us and other local authorities the tools to regulate short-term letting where it causes the most harm and misery to our residents.”
You read more in Cllr Adam Hug’s article “Apartment blocks are being hollowed out to become virtual hotels’ published here.