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Councils planning problems for Olympic short lets

olympic gamesAs we all know the Olympic games is due to take place in London next year. Many landlords and home owners are looking forward to renting out their properties for high prices during the games.

However watch out – you may be letting yourself in for a massive fine. Because some Councils won’t allow it.

“How come?” you might say, “Its my property, surely I can do what I like with it?” Well, yes, but not if it is in breach of the planning regulations.

Now I’m not a planning lawyer, but it appears that in some areas, if you want to let out a property for less than 90 days you need to get permission first.  (Although I confess am having difficulty finding the right legal authority – can anyone help?)

“But hang on” you might say, “my mate Flossie regularly lets out her home in Wimbledon over the summer, so why can’t I let let out my house in Peckham?”.

Well that’s because Merton Council (which covers the Wimbledon area) doesn’t object to short lets, but Southwark Council (which covers Peckham) does.

To be fair, the Councils are not doing this just to maliciously prevent people earning a quick buck from the Olympics. There are problems that come when an area has a lot of short lets – people take less pride in an area when they are only gong to be there for a short time and long term residents complain about increased crime, litter, late night noise and general disruption.

Westminster, for example, has had a policy of discouraging short lets for years – this leaflet for example is dated 2008.

However it does seem unfair that the rules vary so much across London. BBC London did a survey recently and found that although 27 Councils said that they did not object to short term lets, the others are threatening enforcement notices and large fines for short lets without permission.

So if you are considering letting out your home over the Olympic games period, think again if you live in any of these areas:

  • Camden
  • Kensington and Chelsea
  • Southwark
  • Tower Hamlets
  • Westminster

I did wonder, by the way, whether a possible solution might not be a six month fixed term with a break clause. However I suspect that this might be found invalid if it was clear that the actual period of let was never intended to be longer than a few weeks.

Are any planning lawyers able to comment?

[Note – I have now been told it is S.25 of the Greater London Council (General Powers) Act 1973 provides (as amended by s.4 of the Greater London Council (General Powers) Act 1983) and given case reference Hyde Park Residence Ltd v. Secretary of Stage for the Environment, transport and regions v. Westminster City Council [1999] – meaning that the problem is confined to the London area]

[Further note – Islington BC have contacted me to confirm that they do NOT require homeowners to apply for planning permission before letting out their homes for the Olympics]

Olympic rings in St Pancras picture from Graham Hogg in Wikipedia commons

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4 Responses to Councils planning problems for Olympic short lets

  1. I read that justification by Westminster and I ahave to say I think its complete BS. I dont see how an area is going to generate through a proliferation of short lets in the single month of the Olympics. Afterwards landlords will simply go back to renting normally.

    This has more to do with income generation than concern for the community.

    And an empty threat too I think. With the cuts of the past few years and those due to come councils dont have the staff for this kind of proactive campaign so how are they going to know if a property has been let out for a month? Knocking on doors? searching for new housing benefit claims? as if.

    I honestly cant see how they will be able to pick them up. Having said that if they do find only 10 and get the maximum penalty they can boast having made £200,000. I have said before that scammers will abound come the Olympics but it seems they are not the only crooks on the block

  2. Why tell the council? If you let for such a short period – as they do for Wimbledon, the usual practice is to let on an all inclusive basis. No need to tell the council about council tax changes nor the utility companies about meter readings. A risk?? Of course. But payment up front for what – one month perhaps – isn’t that risky. Of course, I am not suggesting that after the event any income is not declared for tax or anything like that. But the council really don’t need to get involved in a one-off event of this kind.

  3. I took a look at this and can’t find any authority allowing the councils to do this. They would have to argue there was a change of use from C3 (dwelling-house) to C1 (hotel, guest-house or boarding-house): all the C1 categories imply allowing someone to live in your house while you remain to provide services (which does not apply to a short-let of the whole property). Still less is there any difference between a let of 91 days (i.e. more than 90) and 89 days, and change of use is always a question of fact for a court (not a council) to decide. This has not (to my knowledge) been a threat that any council has followed-up on – and the reason for that is they know they’d lose. Let me know if you need chapter and verse. David

  4. I should admit that this is quite unpleasant surprise for all the property owner who were planing to get huge profit for just one or two months. Hope that at least the council will speed up the issuing of those permissions.

    Greets Olympic 2012 Accommodations



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Tessa Shepperson

Tessa is a lawyer and specialises in creating products and services which help landlords and letting agents learn and understand landlord & tenant law. For example, she runs the Landlord Law website (now in its 14th year) and is a director of Easy Law Training Ltd and Your Law Store. Tessa also sits on the Property Redress Scheme Council. When not working she enjoys reading, cooking and messing around on the computer. You can also find her on Google

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