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Short-Term Holiday Lets

Volume 757: debated on Monday 8 December 2014

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what guidance they issue to local authorities in respect of enforcing planning and other regulations relating to short-term holiday lets.

My Lords, the Government have not issued guidance to local authorities on short-term holiday lets. However, through the Deregulation Bill, we are reforming legislation on short-term letting in London to allow residents to let their property on a short-term temporary basis without applying for planning permission. In order to provide greater certainty before new legislation comes into force, we will issue guidance shortly that will clarify the Government’s view on planning and short-term letting in London.

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord but I do not agree at all with the proposed new clause. My interest in property is on the register and I speak as a flat owner. My concern is the effect of illegal lets in blocks with long-term residents. There are 15 flats and three or more of these are being let through an agency specialising in short lets. People arrive, 10 at a time, to overoccupy a small flat, acting in a way they would not in a hotel, and even destroying the safety and security of the block by leaving the street front door open. What action can the legal residents or the head lessee take to deal with this problem at present?

My Lords, I first point to my own property interest in leasehold in the House of Lords register. Having done so, I will take up the point of my noble friend. There are specific requirements in terms of the residential leasehold properties themselves and the rights available deriving from the long lease in the first instance and whether the property can be sublet. There are also conditions under any short-term letting agreements. The other factor I draw to my noble friend’s attention is the new powers under the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, which came into force on 20 October, which provide particular rights under both possession and eviction.

My Lords, is not the Government’s approach to this a classic example of how not to legislate? They have brought forward a piece of legislation without prior consultation, with provisions to enable the detail to be set out in regulations but clearly some difficulty in framing those regulations to meet the rhetoric of the proposition advanced. The Minister has told us that their only wish is to deregulate to allow Londoners to let their homes on a short-term, temporary basis, such as when they are on holiday, without having to obtain planning permission—in itself a not unreasonable proposition. However, is it the Minister’s contention that for these purposes it does not have to be somebody’s only or main home? As for being a Londoner, what period of residence, or rather attachment to London, is the Minister suggesting?

First, I am surprised by the noble Lord’s suggestion that there was no consultation, as I am sure he is aware that there was a consultation conducted in February 2014. There were 97 responses to the question on short-term letting in London. Fifteen local authorities responded: eight were strongly against; six were not opposed to review; and, indeed, one was actually supportive of it. Secondly, the noble Lord has been involved in various bilateral meetings on the subject and he knows full well the Government’s intentions in deregulating in this particular sector.

I will need to write to the noble Lord on that. The consultation got more than 70 responses. As I said, the important bodies, to which I draw my noble friend’s attention, were the local authorities that responded to the consultation.

As I mentioned in my initial Answer, we have introduced faster and more effective anti-social behaviour powers through the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014. For example, one of the measures is the new absolute ground for possession where housing-related anti-social behaviour has already been proven by a court. This will make it easier for landlords to evict persistent anti-social tenants.

My Lords, will the Minister state what special regulations there are as regards fire in these sorts of sublets? In the constituency of Southport, there are many young people who cannot find anywhere to live who are cohabiting in flats of this nature. Is there any particular reason why there are no fire restrictions on many of those flats?

My noble friend raises an important point about fire safety orders. They apply to all accommodation for paying guests irrespective of the business model used to market the accommodation. As he will be aware, under the order those offering accommodation to paying guests have a responsibility to assess the risk from fire and to consider fire precautions. If there are specific issues on the matter he has raised that he would like to take up with me, I shall certainly look into them.

I declare an interest in the matter as a lessor of short-term holiday accommodation outside London. Given the ongoing responsibilities of various public authorities for other things such as environmental health, what reassurance can the Minister give that the proposed removal of local authority control in London for these very short-term and holiday lettings will not result in an untidy free for all which will be difficult to police because of its short-term nature, with potentially serious overcrowding? Is there an intention to consult further with property managers?

The noble Earl raises an important point about consultation. The regulations, when they are issued, will be subject to an affirmative order. In developing the guidelines and the subsequent regulations, we are working very closely with London local authorities to ensure that all the points and concerns that they raise are covered.

I am not sure that the Minister has answered my noble friend Lord Campbell-Savours’s question. The Minister referred to anti-social behaviour measures and said that they were for persistent bad behaviour. How does this apply in a short-term let of two weeks, four weeks or even a month?

If the noble Lord so desires, I can write to him in detail about the full provisions of the Act, which I am sure he knows well—I think that he participated in the legislation. The Act also provides for community triggers, for example. This will for the first time give victims and communities the right to require agencies to deal with persistent anti-social behaviour. I am quite happy to provide chapter and verse on those orders to the noble Lord.