With Airbnb applying the 90-day limit on whole-property listings in London from January 2017, many London hosts have considered skirting the law and risking a £20,000 fine by listing their properties on a mix of short-let websites such as Homeaway, Tripadvisor’s Flipkey, Booking.com, Wimdu and Plumguide.
With a large number of multi-platform channel managers available that provide easy property listing, pricing and calendar management across these websites, this is increasingly convenient and affordable to do. However, here are some other options to manage around the 90-day limit legally.
London property owners can apply for planning permission from their local council to change their property use class from C3 (Dwelling House) to C1 (Hotels, Boarding Houses, Guest Houses). However, the planning application process can take up to 6 months and is bureaucratic and costly, while the likelihood of obtaining approval is low. This option is only worthwhile for those hosts who expect short-lets to be their main income over the next few years.
The attitude towards granting permission for use above the 90-day limit varies from one London borough to another. Some strongly resist in favour of securing the boroughs’ long-term housing, but others are more permissive.
If you do consider submitting an application for planning permission, below are some initial checks to do:
• Search for past C3 to C1 change of use planning applications (and their outcomes) on the Planning section of your council websites. Past precedents will give you some idea about the possible outcome of your application.
• If you are on a street where houses have already been converted into commercial premises or there are other guest houses your chances of getting permission is higher.
• If you are in a leasehold, check whether your freeholder allows guest house licenses. If you’re in a residential block this is unlikely.
• Check with your mortgage provider that you are permitted to convert your property as they will be informed during the application process and will potentially disallow it.
Vacation hosts can rent their properties out on a medium-term basis (3 months or more) during low seasons as this doesn’t count towards 90 days limit, only doing higher priced short-lets over peak periods. With a large number of property listings in London during this time, good property marketing and Airbnb-SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) is necessary to secure highly priced bookings.
Alternatively, property owners can focus on medium-term letting all year round, and using short-term bookings to avoid empty periods (up to 90 days). If you opt for this route, we recommend that you offer your guests bi-weekly or monthly cleaning to maintain the cleanliness and quality of your property in preparation for the occasional short-term bookings.
Similar to medium-term letting, corporate letting, where durations can range from 1 month to 2–3 years, can provide better income than a standard long-term let as corporates are willing to pay a premium for suitable accommodation for their employees within a relatively short search period. There are additional opportunities to offer premium services such as regular cleaning, concierge, groceries / breakfast delivery, 24/7 local support to improve your rental income. However this option typically requires that your home has been furnished to a high standard and is professionally managed.
Overall, although the longer-term letting options result in lower rental income, you will still retain some flexibility to use your property for other purposes throughout the year (e.g. family visits). Importantly, you will have peace of mind by being on the right side of the law!
A short-let property management company in London run by experienced vacation hosts who offer the most personalised services on the market. We are all about putting a personal touch to managing clients’ properties. Happyguest brings homeowners’ perspective and understanding of your needs, and treat your properties like how we do our own.