The recent decision in Iveta Nemcova v Fairflied Rents Limited 
UKUT 303 underlined the importance of reviewing lease terms (in
particular, the user covenant) prior to letting residential
property on a short term basis, as set out in
our alert. It therefore seems timely to reflect upon the
potential planning issues raised by short term rentals,
particularly given the rising popularity of websites such as Airbnb
What's the use?
From a planning perspective, permanent use of residential
property for temporary sleeping accommodation constitutes a
material change of use for which planning permission is
Short-term lettings in Greater London are also subject to a
further planning restriction in the form of Section 25 Greater
London Council (General Powers) Act 1973. This makes the use of
residential premises as temporary sleeping accommodation for less
than 90 consecutive nights a material change of use requiring
planning permission. The purpose behind the provision is to
protect London's permanent housing supply.
The Government introduced an exception to this restriction in the
Deregulation Act 2015. As a result, short term lettings in
the capital are no longer deemed a material change of use if:
the cumulative number of nights use as temporary accommodation
does not exceed 90 nights in any one go (or any calendar year);
the person providing the accommodation is liable to pay council
Such use may, nonetheless, be classed as a material change of
use under Building Regulations. Consequently, upgrade works may
still be required to comply with relevant standards.
The new rules also grant the Secretary of State power to create further exceptions by way of
regulations, albeit subject to approval by both Houses of
The new 90 day cap was imposed to prevent permanent temporary
sleeping accommodation use. As a further safeguard, local
authorities can direct that the new rules do not apply to: (i) a
particular residential premise (for example, where there has
already been enforcement action against a statutory nuisance); or
(ii) a particular area. However, local authorities can only
use this power with the consent of the Secretary of State where it
is "necessary to protect the amenity of the
locality". Time will tell whether these safeguards prove
to be effective.
The reforms are consistent with the Government's broader
objectives of relaxing planning laws and reducing the burden of
unnecessary change of use applications. However, they would appear
to be at odds with the Government's drive to
increase the supply of homes. It is therefore doubtful
that the Secretary of State will make further exceptions to section
25 in the near future.
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