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Short-let landlords invited to apply for planning permission in Oxford

Words: Laura Edgar
Oxford / Shutterstock

Oxford City Council has called on short-term let landlords renting out a full house in the city for more than 140 nights a year to apply for planning permission.

In response to escalating calls for new national laws to tighten regulation of short-term lets – including from Oxford City Council and the letting industry itself – the council is urging landlords to get ahead of a potential rush and submit their applications now.

The Planning Practice Guidance (PPG) requires landlords to apply for planning permission when there is a material change in the use of the property. The council, though, has described the phrase “material change” as “ill-defined”.

It means that local authorities are not automatically notified when entire homes become used for short-terms lets, so notification of a ‘material change’ in the use of a property often depends on complaints from members of the public, lengthy investigations and case-by-case assessments, it explained. Furthermore, family homes have been lost.

The council highlighted that short-term letting firm Airbnb has recommended that the UK Government should change the law to require landlords to gain planning permission before they rent out an entire house on a short-let basis for more than 140 nights in a year. This already happens in London if the property is going to be let out for more than 90 nights a year.

Such a law across the country would, said Oxford City Council, enable it to attach planning conditions to the property, such as measures to reduce the impact on the community and prevent the loss of housing. The council would also have a list of properties being let out, which would make it easier to monitor, investigate and take action where necessary.

Linda Smith, deputy leader of Oxford City Council, said: “Oxford has a housing crisis, and landlords have exacerbated the situation by removing permanent housing from the market, and further increasing rents by renting their homes on short-let websites.

“In Oxford, we have seen houses rented through short-let websites used as brothels and for loud parties. But short lets are currently a grey area of the law – there is little regulation to enable local authorities to protect communities from unlawful use of the houses.

“But the tide is turning and, with Airbnb recommending new regulations, it seems increasingly likely that the government will have to act. With that in mind, we are calling on short-let landlords who rent out an entire house in Oxford for more than 140 nights a year to immediately seek planning permission.”

The council has issued an enforcement notice against the owner of a property on William Street, and is considering action against three other landlords operating short-term let properties.

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