The pros and cons of letting your house while you're on holiday

The accidental landlord weighs the pros and cons of letting your house during big sports events or to make money while you enjoy a holiday.

Every summer quite a few of my neighbours let their homes to tennis fans for the Wimbledon Championships fortnight and even though, strictly speaking, they ought to apply for planning permission for a short let, I am pretty sure most of them don’t bother.

I don’t think they even realise that planning permission is required to let a property for less than 90 days under a 40-year-old law that only applies to London, because most boroughs don’t enforce it.

Merton, which covers Wimbledon, and neighbouring Wandsworth, doesn’t bat an eyelid at residents renting out their homes for the tournament. It is such common practice that one of the first questions you are asked when you buy a house in our neighbourhood is: “Are you going to let it for Wimbledon?”

Renting out your home while you go on holiday can bring in some extra cash and short lets can also be lucrative for landlords because tenants are usually prepared to pay about 50 per cent more rent than they do for lets of six months or more.

I have offered short lets at one of my rental flats, usually advertising for tenants via Airbnb, Gumtree and Spareroom. Some stayed for only a week or two and as soon as one left, another moved in. No one objected to the steady stream of strangers coming and going, but I can see why some London councils do.

Southwark, Tower Hamlets, Islington, Kensington and Chelsea, Westminster and Camden all insist on planning permission for lets of less than 90 days to prevent homes being turned into hostels. Try to rent out a property in one of these boroughs for less than three months without permission, which is rarely given, and you face a £20,000 fine.

However, this may change from next year as the Government is planning to amend the law so that Londoners will be allowed to let their properties for a
week or two at a time without fear of prosecution. This won’t necessarily mean that landlords will be able to convert their rentals into holiday homes, as the change will only allow Londoners to rent out their homes “on a temporary basis”, such as when they go on holiday.

For landlords to offer holiday lets might still require planning permission, but if the restriction on short lets in London is abolished, they might be able to offer tenancies of less than 90 days. As long as the property is the tenant’s main— albeit temporary — residence, councils might not be able to object.

Nevertheless, landlords thinking of offering short lets would be wise to check the terms of any mortgage and insurance policy. These usually insist rental properties are let on an assured shorthold tenancy, which must be for a minimum six months.

A way round this might be to issue the tenant with an assured shorthold tenancy with a break clause that can be activated by them at any time. This would let them end the tenancy after the agreed number of days, weeks or months, but there is a risk they would stay longer than agreed.

Landlords with a leasehold property should check that the head lease doesn’t prohibit it being used for short-term accommodation. This is quite common.

Personally, I find short lets too time consuming. Although I can earn more rent, after I deduct council tax, energy bills and the extra cleaning and advertising costs, the little more cash that comes in just isn’t worth the extra work. It’s one thing to let your house while you are on holiday, quite
another to turn it into a business.

Victoria Whitlock lets three properties in south London. To contact Victoria with your ideas and views, tweet @vicwhitlock

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