Oxford City Council's bid to halt the use of a residential property in the city as a short-term let has been successful after a year-long battle. The home on William Street was previously used as a short-term let, however, following complaints from a neighbour, the council issued a planning enforcement notice to allow the owner to continue letting it out over short periods.
Now that the initial decision has been upheld, this is being viewed a s a landmark ruling which could be the beginning of tighter controls on short-term letting groups such as Airbnb and HomeAway.
This court decision follows the news that one of Airbnb’s founder’s, Brian Chesky, pledged to audit the landlords using the site to remove some professional landlords, who would otherwise rent their homes to long-term tenants. Taken together, this could spell the beginning of more regulation of short-term let properties. That could include the need for change of use applications where a property is rented out on a short-term basis for much of the year.
Why Oxford’s Planning Order Was Upheld
Proving a change of use of a residential property can be difficult. In the case of short-lets, unless there are complaints or activity of note, local councils are rarely made aware that what appears to be a typical residential property is actually being used as a short-let investment. However, the complaint about the property on William Street prompted a period of activity by the council. During that time, it gained information from numerous sources, proving the property was being used as a permanent short-let property and not as a residential home.
This meant that even though the owner of the property appealed the initial planning enforcement order, the planning inspectorate upheld the initial decision from Oxford City Council. This led to the owner no longer being able to rent his property out as a short-let.
More Action Against Short-Lets Planned
Since Oxford City Council’s original decision has been upheld, it has warned other property-owners in the city that where they are using it as a short-let, they should apply for change-of-use before it takes action against other properties. The council has also called for more regulation of the short-let sector.
“I am really pleased that the Planning Inspectorate has found in our favour. However, it is frustrating that it has taken more than a year to stop antisocial behaviour at a single short let property,” said Oxford City Councillor Alex Hollingsworth, cabinet member for planning and housing delivery.
“I first asked the government to take action on this more than two years ago. I realise there are other priorities right now but this nettle should have been grasped long before the pandemic hit,” Hollingsworth added.
This decision, which is being hailed as a landmark ruling, could well be the beginning of increased regulation on the sector. If it does lead to an increase in change-of-use applications, it should make it easier for councils to manage the number of properties being used as short-let properties and therefore maintain some balance between the needs of long-term tenants and short-term visitors.
However, only time will tell whether or not it’s enough to encourage government involvement.