Short-term lets

A short-term let is where a property or room in a property is rented out on a nightly basis (usually organised online) and the guest is generally a tourist or business traveller. Expectations of hotel-like services are common. This type of let is different from a tenancy between a landlord and tenant. It's also sometimes referred to as a 'nightly let'.

Homeowners can legally rent their homes on this basis for up to 90 nights a year without planning permission. They must meet certain standards, and like all properties they cannot cause excessive disruption to their neighbours.

Short-term lets in Westminster

We know that most homeowners who let on a nightly basis do so within the law and maintain excellent standards. However, we also know short-term letting can cause problems for our residents. When guests do not respect their neighbours, residents may experience problems such as excessive noise, unsociable hours, or dumping of waste. 

The council’s short-term let team will investigate any properties that cause problems for our communities.

1. For residents

What you can do if you have a concern

  • speak to the landlord and let them know you have concerns - they may not realise that their guests are causing problems for neighbours
  • if the problems persist, try speaking to your building manager (if you have one)
  • if you believe the landlord is breaking the law, or the property is causing significant and ongoing disruption, you should report it to the council

When to report to the council

Noise or anti-social behaviour

If you are facing repeated problems with noise or anti-social behaviour, let the council know by emailing hst@westminster.gov.uk or report a noise complaint online.

We will investigate properties that cause significant disruption, fear, alarm or distress to neighbours. Please note that we cannot take action if the noise is inconsistent or could be associated with normal and reasonable daily living. 

If you witness crime, or feel there is any immediate danger, you should always contact the police.

Breach of 90-night limit

If you believe the property is being let for more than 90 nights a year, you can report it to HST@westminster.gov.uk.

The council will visit the property to establish if there is a breach of the law, this will require multiple visits to establish the evidence required. It may help to keep a record of dates, time, duration and the nature of the problem. This can help the council investigate.

2. For landlords

Homeowners can legally let their home on a short-term basis, as long as they meet all legal requirements and do not cause unreasonable disturbance to neighbours.

To let legally and responsibly, you must:

1. comply with the 90 night limit. If you want to let your home for more than 90 nights a year, you must seek planning permission. 
2. check you have permission to share your home. To let your home, you must be the council tax payer at the property. You should also check the terms of your lease or, if you are not the homeowner, you must have permission from the landlord. 
3. take measures to make sure your guests do not cause unreasonable disturbance to neighbours. As the homeowner, you are responsible for what happens at the property. If your guests cause excessive noise or anti-social behaviour, you may be liable for fines or prosecutions.

Best practice guidance

Guests that behave irresponsibly can be a nightmare for neighbours. This might be because of excessive noise, unsociable hours, dumping waste or causing mess or disturbance in common areas. 

Top tips for ensuring guests behave responsibly:

  • notify your neighbours that you will have guests, and provide them with a contact number should any issues arise
  • make sure you know who is in your property by meeting the guests and verify their ID before you give out keys
  • provide an emergency contact to your guests, reachable 24 hours a day
  • provide a Code of Conduct for your guests - this should include being mindful of neighbours, eg remind guests not to knock or buzz neighbour’s doors, and to keep noise to a minimum, especially at night
  • ensure a ‘no party policy’ and require guests to notify you of any additional guests
  • leave clear instructions for what to do with rubbish and recycling
  • tell your guests about any common area rules in your building
  • ensure you have insurance in place to cover the guest stays, including 3rd party liability insurance

Potential consequences of not following the law and best practice

Breaking the 90 night limit or letting the property when you are not the council tax payer:

  • ​enforcement action, which if not complied with may result in criminal proceedings, an unlimited fine, and/or a Local Land Charges record which could make the future sale or financing of the property more difficult

Failing to effectively control guest behaviour:

  • enforcement/prosecution action
  • closure orders
  • breach of lease covenants

Failing to adhere to health and safety regulations:

  • guests and neighbours put at risk of serious injury or death
  • penalty fines
  • enforcement Action and criminal proceedings
  • invalidation of insurance policies
  • breach of mortgage terms
  • breach of lease covenants

3. Contact

The council has a dedicated team of short-term let officers.  If you would like more advice, or if you have a concern please contact the Short-Term Let Team at HST@westminster.gov.uk, or you can report anti-social behaviour online.

4. For building managers and freeholders

Best practice guidance

  • make sure you meet all health and safety legal requirements
  • proactively ensure that property owners meet all their legal obligations by maintaining a register of properties engaging in Short-term Letting within the building
  • report any known unlawful letting to Westminster City Council
  • pursue any clear breach of lease where known, while keeping in mind that any legal fees must be in the interest of all leaseholders to spend common funds
  • develop or adopt a protocol that sets out clear guidelines for hosts to follow

Building protocol

Adopting a protocol for short-term letting in your building will set clear guidelines for your leaseholders to follow.  We recommend using the STAA best practice building protocol:

WRONG LINK

5. The law

How long can you let your home for?

Homeowners can let their home on a short-term basis for up to 90 nights in a calendar year (1 January to 31 December).

  • If you rent your property for more than 90 nights, you must apply for planning permission
  • Letting your home on this basis for more than 90 nights without planning permission may result in us taking enforcement action

Who can let their home?

You are only able to let out your home and ‘host’ if:

  • you are the property owner and eligible to pay the council tax
  • you are the tenant who is eligible to pay the council tax and have the permission of the property owner to sublet the property
  • you are a leaseholder whose lease does not expressly forbid this activity
  • you are the managing agent acting on behalf of the property owner who pays the council tax (the responsibility remains that of the property owner.)
  • you are not the council tax payer but have been granted planning permission to let the property

You may also need to notify or request permission from the following:

  • your insurer
  • your freeholder if you are a leaseholder
  • your mortgage provider if you hold a mortgage
  • your landlord if you are a tenant (this includes council tenants, housing association tenants and tenants who rent from a private landlord).

Health and Safety (including Fire Safety)

Ensuring the safety of your guests is extremely important. By law, you must undertake a risk assessment to identify any hazards that may lead to potential accidents, such as falls and electric shocks, and take measures to reduce those risks. You should consider that some guests, such as young children, may be vulnerable.

It is a good idea to keep a written record of this risk assessment. Failure to comply with these standards could invalidate your landlord’s insurance cover.

Key health and safety considerations:

  • Electrical safety: You have a duty of care to ensure electrics and appliances within the property are safe. The electrical installation should be tested by a registered electrician if no inspection has been undertaken in the last five years.
  • Gas safety: There must be a valid gas safety certificate issued in the last 12 months to ensure all heating and cooking appliances are safe.
  • Carbon Monoxide: A carbon monoxide alarm should be provided. Consider that adjoining properties may pose a risk.
  • Fire: You must have fire safety measures, such as smoke alarms, and you should carry out a fire safety risk assessment to ensure hazards are identified, controlled and reviewed. The common parts of a communal building are subject to the Fire Safety (regulatory reform) Order 2005. This means the person responsible for the building must undertake a competent risk assessment and act on it accordingly. Breach of fire and safety regulations puts guests and neighbours at risk of serious injury or death and can result in a conviction with an unlimited fine.  
  • Furnishings: furnishings must have a permanently attached label to comply with The Furniture and Furnishings (Fire Safety) Regulations.
  • Security: locks to doors and windows should provide an appropriate level of security. Exit doors and escape windows should allow keyless exit in the event of a fire

Anti-social behaviour

If you let your house, you are responsible for ensuring your guest’s behaviour does not negatively affect your neighbours.

If your guests behave unreasonably, the council can take enforcement action against you. We may issue a Community Protection Notice, which will tell you what reasonable steps you need to take to ensure anti-social behaviour does not happen again.  Breaching this notice is a criminal offence and may carry a fine of up to £20,000 for businesses or £2,500 for individuals.

If the anti-social behaviour persists, the council and police can consider serving a Closure Order, restricting all access to the property for up to 6 months. 

Environmental Protection (waste)

Residents must dispose of their waste responsibly, using bin chambers, on-street collections or black bins across the City. Putting out waste at the incorrect time or location can incur fines of up to £2,500.

Noise

If your property causes a persistent noise nuisance the Council may, under the Environmental Protection Act 1990, serve a noise abatement notice, seize equipment and prosecute.

Tax

The money you earn from hosting is income and subject to tax. Depending on the amount you earn from hosting, you may need to declare it to HM Revenue and Customs. You can find details on the tax incentives and how to correctly account for tax online.

Last updated: 2 July 2019