Short-term lets

Some salacious reporting of a property advertised for short-term lets has brought to light an important issue for anyone thinking of letting out a property that they own for holiday purposes. A headline in 'Wales Online' read: 'Neighbours left fuming at loud, rowdy revellers and nudity at unlawful party house'. Whilst certainly eye-catching, it highlights an important point for property owners.

Recent reports suggest that a large number of buy to let landlords are turning their backs on renting to 'traditional' tenants who want to live in the property that they rent, in favour of short-term holiday lets which are often more lucrative for the landlord. However, what many property owners may not realise is that a property which was used as a dwelling but is now used as a holiday let may need planning permission.

Broadly, the planning legislation requires that planning permission is required for a 'material change of use'. However, what constitutes 'material' is not defined and will depend on the facts of each case. The Court of Appeal has suggested that whether a change of use is 'material' may depend on a number of factors including the impact of the use on the neighbouring property owners. For example, if there is increased parking in the area, activity at unusual times of day and party activities, these could all suggest that a change of use is sufficiently material that planning permission is required.

The reported case referred to above is interesting because it highlights another issue which property owners often do not appreciate: the fact that planning problems run with the property rather than the person. The property owners in the newspaper report were said not to have known that they needed planning permission to change the use of their property and have now made an application. However, not knowing that planning permission is required is not a defence to a failure to obtain it. Importantly, if someone buys a property which at the time of purchase is used as a holiday let, they may be faced with a requirement to obtain planning permission if they did not carefully check the position up time of purchase. Of course, if planning permission for the required use is not granted, this could mean that a person's investment is worth considerably less than they thought it would be.

All of these planning and property pitfalls are important reminders that planning is a specialist area and appropriate legal advice should be taken before any change of use of a property is carried out.

To discuss this or any other property matter, contact us.

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