View of a row of terraced homes.
The Government is asking for people’s views on a new planning use-class and a registration scheme for short-term lets. Photo: Ftizrovia News.

Fitzrovia is blighted by the concentration of short-term lets in the neighbourhood, and both Camden and Westminster councils have raised concerns about the impact it has on its communities as well as the local housing market.

Now the Government is holding a public consultation on introducing a new planning use-class for short-term lets and a separate consultation on a registration scheme.

Since the introduction of the Deregulation Act 2015 — which relaxed restrictions on short-term letting without planning permission — it has been difficult for London boroughs to take enforcement action against those who breach the 90-day limit for short-term letting.

Tactics such as listing a property across multiple sites, using different locations and different photos make it harder for local authorities to locate short-term lets whilst demonstrating a breach of the Deregulation Act.

The City of Westminster has more short-term lets than any other part of the country. Westminster Council says the increase in short-lets has resulted in a reduced stock in the private rented sector, increased private rental prices, and has affected the Council’s ability to carry out its homelessness duties and support schemes.

In July 2022 there were around 8,941 short-term lets advertised in Westminster. Camden says it had identified 6,215 short-let properties in 2020.

Short-term letting is also negatively affecting communities with increased anti-social behaviour, illegal dumping of waste, and a reduced sense of community as the number of homes for long term residents is restricted.

Westminster says that short-term lets are concentrated in the West End ward and Camden says that Bloomsbury ward is the most affected.

Westminster Council says that the increasing professionalisation of the market — where sometimes whole buildings are let out on a short-term basis — has resulted in unfair competition for hotels which have to comply with stricter regulations and shoulder a higher tax burden.

But both Camden and Westminster councils also say that short-letting has a part to play in Central London’s tourist economy.

“This kind of accommodation, when managed properly, benefits hosts wanting to let empty properties and guests looking for an authentic experience in our vibrant city,” said Westminster Council in its response (pdf) to a government call for evidence in September 2022 on a tourist accommodation registration scheme.

“While the majority of properties are let responsibly, a large number are not and result in noise, illegal dumping, antisocial behaviour and, at its worst, criminal activity,” said Westminster Council.

“In Westminster, short-term lets have been widely abused — when you have one residential block renting out more rooms than the Ritz every night, you know the system needs reform,” says Cllr Adam Hug, leader of Westminster City Council.

In Camden, a report to Camden’s housing scrutiny committee in September 2021 stated that short-term lets “do have benefits such as offering home owners additional income, accommodation for visitors to the borough and helping residents to meet new people [sic].

“However, at a time when around a third of Camden residents rent from private landlords and more permanent homes are needed, properties being used as full-time short term lets risk adding to the housing shortage and driving up rents,” said the report.

Have your say on the new use-class and the registration scheme.

Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities: Introduction of a use class for short term lets and associated permitted development rights. (Consultation closes on 7 June 2023.)

Department for Culture, Media and Sport: Consultation on a registration scheme for short-term lets in England. (Consultation closes on 7 June 2023.)

Camden Council’s response to call for evidence for a tourist accommodation registrations scheme, September 2022 (pdf).

Westminster City Council’s response to call for evidence for a tourist accommodation registration scheme, September 2022 (pdf).