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Council receives 30 complaints a week on short-term lets for antisocial behaviour

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.  

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 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.”

Kay Buxton, Chief Executive of the Marble Arch London Business Improvement District (BID) said:

We see daily issues with household waste from guests in short term-lets scattered along Westminster’s high streets in carrier bags, and copious amounts of fly-tipping as flat fixtures and fittings are rotated on an almost continuous basis. A high turnover of guests and ‘over-occupied’ flats means that bed bases, mattresses, furniture and white goods are fly tipped onto Westminster’s pavements every single day from the 33 residential blocks on and around Edgware Road, putting intense pressure on Council services. 

Some of the worst examples of anti-social behaviour manifest when a flat is used for illegal activity, such as a brothel or unlicensed music event (UME). In these situations, not only the local authority but the police and the courts are involved in making the property safe and returning a block to a safer neighbourhood footing, at great expense to the public purse and residential communities.

We fully support the call for a short-lets registration scheme and greater powers on regulation and enforcement.”

Published: 13 November 2023