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Tower Hamlets

It has been reported that Tower Hamlets (TH) council will be asking housing secretary Sajid Javid to exempt parts of the borough from rules enabling people to let their homes out for short term holiday lets like those found on Airbnb without permission.

Landlords renting out their properties in the borough for an aggregate of less than 90 nights in each calendar year have not needed planning consent since October 2015. However, permission is required where short term lettings take place over more than 90 nights during the calendar year. The permission is required because the short-letting of a residential property for more than 90 nights in London is a material change of use and requires planning consent.

According to the report compiled by the TH acting corporate director, Ann Sutcliffe, Airbnb lettings have tripled in the area to more than 50,000 with an additional 40,000 listed on other sites. It is also claimed that there were more Airbnb bookings in the year to March 2017 in TH than any borough except for Westminster. Lettings appear to be concentrated around Brick Lane and Canary Wharf and involves properties being let out on an all year-round basis by holiday let businesses.

The net loss of these lettings is that residential accommodation in the borough is lost to the short-term lettings market. The consequence of these lettings is that there is now a relatively small but significant loss of residential housing in TH. TH also claims that there is evidence that this type of letting causes a nuisance for residents, undermines community cohesion and contributes to antisocial and criminal behaviour, including prostitution and drug dealing.

Therefore, with all the above in mind TH are requesting that the Secretary of State (SoS) for housing exempt it from the automatic grant of the 90-day planning permission in areas of the borough most severely affected by the growth in short-term lettings. Under the Deregulation Act a local authority can apply to the SoS for the 90-day exemption to be lifted in a defined area. TH is therefore applying with a view to regulating the short-term rental market not from day 91 but day 1 of any such letting. This regulation will then see permission for short term lets refused making more residential properties available for local residents.


TH admit that the enforcement against any breaches of the 90-day rule have been poor mainly because of the problems associated with obtaining evidence. Furthermore, despite knowing of breaches in and around the Brick Lane area TH have not taken any action because there is currently inadequate capacity to take effective enforcement action. However, despite these failings TH seem confident that if they are granted this exemption they will be in a position to take any enforcement action that may be required. Time will no doubt tell how TH hopes to achieve this and whether their efforts will be effective.

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