The success of temporary short-term property letting companies such as Airbnb, Onefinestay and Homeaway shows no sign of abating. Airbnb UK had a turnover of over £14m in 2018 and the company claims that it boosted the UK economy by £4.2bn last year alone. But with success comes a number of planning issues.
The occasional letting of a property or room for short-term occupancy is not likely to constitute a change of use of the ‘planning unit’ as such – it would remain a family home, after all, under Use Class C3. However, the continuous letting of a property on a short-term basis is increasingly being judged as constituting a material change of use, for which planning permission may be required.
Local authorities are concerned that the increase in Airbnb-type use (particularly in popular city centres or tourist honeypots like National Parks) can have the following effects:
- A reduction in housing supply locally;
- Increases in rental levels for all;
- Loss of community cohesion in some areas; and
- Potential for anti-social behaviour from guests, such as single-sex group bookings or hen or stag parties.
Within London, whilst such short-terms lets are extremely popular, there is at least some clarity on planning matters. Under provisions in the Deregulation Act 2015, residential premises in the capital can be used as ‘temporary sleeping accommodation’ for up to 90 nights in any calendar year without triggering a change of use. The impact can be significant. Figures from independent website Inside Airbnb showed availability of more than 20,000 ‘entire’ homes in London for at least one night.
Outside the capital, matters are a little less straightforward. It is a matter of ‘fact and degree’ as to whether a change of use from a Class C3 (dwellinghouse) to a sui generis use (short-term holiday let) has occurred. The local planning authority will need to consider facts such as the number of people occupying the property, the number of separate lets over a given period and any disturbance to the residential character and amenity before deciding whether permission will be required. If an application is made, it will be considered against the policies of the relevant Development Plan, taking any other material facts into account.
JWPC can help in assessing whether your existing or proposed holiday let would need planning permission and, if so, which factors would be important in gaining consent. This is an emerging area of planning law with appeal decisions continuing to inform the argument. As with Deliveroo and Uber recently, this is another example of legislation struggling to keep pace with the digital economy.