Marble Arch London BID has joined forces with Westminster Council in calling on the government to introduce legislation for the regulation of the short-term lets sector.
The council estimates there are currently around 12,000 short-term lets in Westminster, more than any other London borough. Westminster receives complaints week in week out from residents about noisy temporary tenants using short-term lets, and currently has 500 active investigations.
Within the Marble Arch BID footprint we play host to a significant number of high-density residential blocks, which see above average concentrations of short-term let accommodation as online platforms for hosts and guests flood the market.
The impact of short-term letting on people living in these blocks cannot be underestimated. Being faced by strangers on an almost daily basis in your home environment can be unsettling at best, at worst it generates a fear of crime and, debilitatingly, feeling unsafe in your own home.
The social impact on local communities can be devastating and the burden on the local authority caused by increased pressure on local services diverts precious resources from the long term residential and business population.
Noise complaints are higher than average for Westminster, as people arrive to take up their short-term residence, or check-out, 24 hours a day, loading and unloading people and often large amounts of luggage all through the night. Dense residential blocks were not designed to accommodate this high volume of turnover, movement and activity.
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.
Westminster council has been calling for more powers which would increase its ability to tackle the issues caused by short-term lets. The Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has the power to introduce 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.
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 private 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.
Marble Arch BID fully supports the call for a short-lets registration scheme and greater powers on regulation and enforcement.
Kay Buxton, Chief Executive at Marble Arch London BID, on BBC London on 21 November 2023.
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.”
Cllr Adam Hug, Leader of Westminster City Council, said: