Over 1,200 properties in Westminster are under investigation over short term letting, with the new Housing Standards Taskforce swinging into action.
Landlords are not allowed to let properties for over 90 nights without planning permission and this government legal limit applies across all websites.
The council’s new Housing Standards Taskforce is collecting evidence of those properties suspected of breaching the 90-night limit.
Cllr Nickie Aiken, leader of Westminster City Council, said:
“Many people may simply not know that the 90-night limit exists, and that it applies across all websites.
“We have no problem with people earning a little extra money by letting their home considerately within the limits, but those who are breaching the 90-night limit and letting 365 days a year are a blight on the lives of our residents.”
“Our officers are rolling up their sleeves and getting out into Westminster to find the evidence we need to tackle this problem.”
The team multi-disciplinary taskforce combining expertise from across the council and as well as short-term letting also tackle landlords who are letting out substandard accommodation.
These investigative officers are on the streets of Westminster every day, and the public can report to them if they suspect a neighbour is breaking the rules.
According to data from Inside Airbnb (a volunteer run organisation), it is estimated that in Westminster there are 4,703 Airbnb listings (3,284 entire homes, 1,378 private rooms, and 41-shared rooms).
The estimated average occupancy rate in Westminster is 116 nights per calendar year, per property – as the council does not grant planning permission to let longer than 90 nights this indicates that many landlords are finding ways to breach the law.
So far this year 75 Planning Contravention Notices have been issued, which are useful tools in collecting evidence to determine whether a breach of planning control has occurred.
The taskforce also have the power to issue enforcement notices when they have evidence that the rules are being broken and if these enforcement notices are not complied with then these rogue landlords will be prosecuted with unlimited fines for breaches to the law.
Ten Planning Enforcement Notices have been issued so far.
How conviction could affect a landlord
Conviction in the Magistrates’ or Crown Court can lead to an unlimited fine for non-compliance with the requirements of the Enforcement Notice and once served, constitutes a charge on the Local Land Charges Register and can make the future sale or financing of the property more difficult.
No stone will be left unturned and the council will be querying with the relevant parties whether “commercial” short-letting (i.e. for more than 90 nights) invalidates the mortgage of the property and/or invalidates the home insurance for not only the property but the entire block.
The council has invested £200,000 in the team, which will also receive support from the noise team and environmental health colleagues.
Why this issue matters
Westminster City Council has no issue with people who are legitimately letting out their properties within the 90-night limit. However, the council is concerned about the impact of those who are breaking the rules and letting out their homes all year round, often for a night or two at a time.
Thus far the council’s investigations have found multiple parties, music events, incidents of serious overcrowding, and sex work all occurring within nightly lets in Westminster.