Council wins decision against leaseholder for short-term let

Date: 
Mon, 02/03/2020

A Westminster leaseholder was found guilty of advertising his council property on Booking.com and Airbnb, after Westminster City Council took him to a tribunal.       

Madhukar Kothari, the leaseholder, was found to have breached the lease agreement by using his council property as a business through short-term letting his flat in St Johns Wood Terrace. He was advertising his flat on Booking.com and Airbnb to tourists looking for somewhere to stay while they visited the capital.  

To build a case, the Westminster Housing team used confirmation emails from Booking.com and Airbnb, provided by tourists staying at the property, which listed the full address, proving it was being used as a short-term let. The advert was still listed on Booking.com and Airbnb at the time of the hearing, which was also used as evidence.

Mr Kothari did not cooperate with the investigation or attend the hearing but has taken the listing down from the booking websites. The council are working with Mr Kothari to ensure he doesn’t re-list the property. However, if he does the council will take further action which may result in ending the lease.

Cllr David Harvey, Cabinet Member for Housing Services at Westminster City Council says:

“Short-term letting is taking place on an unprecedented level in Westminster – we believe up to 11,000 properties are available for short-term letting across the borough. This places a huge burden on our residents, who are often victims of disruption from tourists coming and going from their estates.

“Our priority is to protect our residents and their communities. Waiting lists for council properties in Westminster are extensive, so we want to continue to defend residents in genuine need of a home.

“We’re pleased with this result and we hope it sends a clear message that we’re taking this issue seriously and will crack down on this type of breach.”

Almost 1,500 properties in Westminster alone are under investigation. Working with other councils in London and across the UK, Westminster Council is calling on the Government to introduce a compulsory cross-platform registration scheme for property owners, so councils know which properties are being short-term let and for how long.

Short-term letting of council properties is strictly prohibited in Westminster. While private homeowners and leaseholders may short term let their property for up to 90 days per calendar year, the council does not permit Westminster Housing leaseholders to short-let their properties.

The council needs to be alerted if short-term letting is suspected for those living in Westminster Housing. If you suspect any form of unauthorised short-term letting in Westminster, report it here: housing.enquiries@westminster.gov.uk  

-ENDS-

Westminster City Council principally relied on clause 18 of the Seventh Schedule of the lease which prohibits the use of the demised premises for any trade profession or business whatsoever but to keep and use the Demised premises as a single flat for residential purposes only.

What is short-term letting?

Short-term Letting is when a homeowner, tenant or leaseholder rents out their property (or a room within their property) on a nightly basis, primarily to those visiting for a short period of time (e.g. tourists). Properties can be listed on websites such as Airbnb and Bookings.com where visitors can pick and choose from a 1000s of listings. In the case of private leaseholders and homeowners in London, the Deregulation Act 2015 allows for up to 90 nights of short-term letting within a calendar year. Letting for more than 90 nights requires authorisation from the Local Authority. In the case of Westminster Housing (i.e. council housing), leaseholders are not permitted to short-term let their property as per the terms of the lease, and short-term letting a council property constitutes a breach of the lease.

What does the lease say about short-letting?

The lease places conditions on the use and occupation of a property. Short-term letting is considered a breach of the lease covenants which states that the owner must use their flat “as a private residential dwelling” and not to allow their flat to be used for “any trade or business.”

They have also promised “not to do or permit or suffer to be done any act or thing which shall or may become a nuisance” to council and occupiers of the remainder of the building or the estate.

We do not give approval for short-term let arrangements and will take legal action against leaseholders if they let their property on a short-term basis. 

 

Last updated: 2 March 2020