Rogue landlords who let their properties on a short-term let basis, flouting the 90-night limit, or those that have too many tenants under one roof, are facing a crackdown in the borough of Westminster. This London authority has launched a £429,000 crackdown, with four investigative officers to tackle irresponsible or unlawful letting. The campaign will also include a wider survey into the condition of properties in the private rental sector. The idea is to pinpoint hotspots where the council needs to take action, as well as to promote good practice. Illegal houses in multiple occupancy are high on the agenda, because these can pose a serious risk to tenants.
AirBnB lettings in Westminster have gone up from 1,603 in 2015 to 3,621 this year, which is an increase of 126%. Since September, about 1,500 properties have been looked into for potential unauthorised use for short lets. It is felt that there is a higher incidence of anti-social behaviour and complaints to councils in properties where landlords are flouting the rules by letting their property throughout the year on a commercial basis. The authority does not have a problem with those who carry out short-term lets within the 90-night limit to make extra money through websites like AirBnB.
Westminster City Council leader, councillor Nickie Aiken, said there are many people who legitimately and responsibly let their homes for less than 90 days to make some money. However, some are letting their properties for one or two nights at a time all year and treating it as a commercial enterprise. Where the council officers find evidence that a property has been let for more than 90 nights without planning permission, they will issue an enforcement notice. It is a criminal offence to breach the conditions of enforcement notices and the council will prosecute any alleged offenders. This can lead to an unlimited fine. Owners may also find that they are in breach of their mortgage conditions and home insurance could be invalidated. The crackdown will help to flush out rogue landlords who are letting out their homes illegally and potentially putting tenants at risk. It has been welcomed by landlords who are fed up with the rogue element giving their profession a bad name.
Councillor Aiken is also calling on the government to introduce a tax on nightly letting, because local taxpayers are picking up the tab for the extra council services and activities relating to these visitors.