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Rental properties and the London Olympics

I live in the Westminster area of central London – Pimlico to be exact – and I am planning to get out of London next year when the Olympic Games are on and spend some time with my Dad and also travel abroad to get away from the mayhem. Luckily, my job enables me to work remotely for a while.

Sometimes, when friends ask me about this, they ask if I am thinking of letting out my property for a couple of weeks or whatever, and earn a bit of extra cash to compensate for the cost of paying for the Games and the associated hassles. In general, I am against the idea of letting my place to strangers, and would only consider letting it to people I know and trust. (I am worried about strangers stealing my entire Robert Heinlein collection, 50th anniversary Playboy album and cufflinks. You know how it is). However, it turns out that Westminster City Council has decided to kill the idea anyway – people who let properties for short periods without permission will, it says, be fined. Other London boroughs are taking a more liberal line.

I was not aware that to let out my property for a few days or weeks was something that the council had any power to prevent. Now we know better, alas.

Suppose I decide to let my Dad house-sit my place for a few days, or let other relatives use my place and possibly reimburse me for the electricity, gas and water bills. It appears that the council officials are entitled to check who is in properties during the Games and make sure they are not being used illegally as rentals.

Of course, some people will chance it and let their places out. I must say, Britain is becoming more like East Germany. That country liked its Olympics, if I recall.

The next time anyone talks about the UK and property ownership, please try not to laugh.

Update: The commenter Laird asks if we could legally challenge this edict. I suppose it is possible.

19 comments to Rental properties and the London Olympics

  • Antoine Clarke

    The money quote from the Westminster Soviet (sorry, “Council”)

    Rosemarie MacQueen, Westminster Council’s head of city planning development and design, said: “In Westminster, we have a population of 250,000 and that has to grow with targets from the mayor and ourselves. “If we have short term lets, we’ll never increase our long term residential population.

    So Boris Johnson is to blame. A perfect case of one state control (the Olympics “which will put London on the map”) conflicting with another state control (population planning).

    And the beauty is: it only costs hundreds of billions of pounds every year!

  • RRS

    To MacQueen: Build a Mosque and they will come.

  • Laird

    I suppose it’s foolish to ask whether it would be possible to bring some sort of preemptive lawsuit to have the Council’s edict declared either legal or illegal?

  • tux1952

    And what about all those people who rent out their properties for Wimbledon fortnight…and make an absolute fortune.

  • Roue le Jour

    I assumed initially that they would get you for not having fireproof sofas, or wheelchair ramps, or something, but it seems from the article that planning permission is required for a short term let.

    It seems a fairly obvious observation that Westminster has a number of substantial hotels and Haringey (which the article says isn’t bothered) has only a few cheap flops.

  • The Pedant-General

    Gah! What a complete moron.

    This is an almost precisely corrolary to employment law: make it harder to fire and people will be more reluctant to hire in the first place.

    In this case, make it harder to leave and people will be more reluctant to consider to moving in.

    And this woman says she is in charge of “planning”????

  • Chris Underhill

    Can someone explain what law, local or national, allows a local authority to decide who a homeowner can have in his or her house?

    Local authorities can, quite rightly, forbid sub-letting of council properties: but as far as I know they can’t do anything to stop property owners letting to whomever they want, provided taxes are paid and account taken of laws on nuisance and the like. I have a property outside London which I let out and no-one has ever suggested that I seek ‘permission’ to do so.

    Maybe I’m naïve and there are such laws, but could this be just another piece of slovenly and misleading MSM journalism?

  • Andrew Duffin

    @Chris, I wondered that too.

    The central problem seems to be that councils can decide for themselves what activities or actions require planning permission. No doubt there is some catch-all provision in the law, which allows them to do this.

    They use it all the time to extend the tentacles of their control to all sorts of things that “planning” was never intended to cover.

    It’s time they were stopped, but of course we have a local administration which is determined to extend and enforce central control of everything, so they won’t be stopped.

    Authoritarianism rules OK!

  • Roue le Jour

    They use it all the time to extend the tentacles of their control to all sorts of things that “planning” was never intended to cover.

    They use “Conservation Area” in the same way. I attempted to lease a shop many years ago and found that a perfectly ordinary run of about half a dozen buildings, no different from those either side or opposite, had been designated such simply so the council could exert greater authority over what businesses were allowed to trade there.

  • There are population targets? I found out recently that there are sand and gravel extraction targets. What is wrong with people?

  • Paul Marks

    So now it is a crime to let out your house of flat for a couple of weeks.

    Just when I think things can not possibly get any more demented – they do.

    As for targets….

    Yes there are “targets” and “plans” concerning everything.

    This is BRITAIN.

  • Antoine Clarke

    I just looked up the legislation in France. I can’t see anything that would prohibit “location saisoniere” provided the place meets normal rental requirements (mostly to do with fire hazards).

    In fact, for seasonal lettings, such as for the Olympics or university students during term time, the only regulations are from article 1713 of the Civil Code (not very good translation here http://www.legifrance.gouv.fr/html/codes_traduits/code_civil_textA.htm):

    “One may rent all kinds of property, movables and immovables.”

    The following articles state how courts must act if there is a dispute over an unwritten agreement, and specify that sub-letting is always allowed, unless specifically prohibited in the original contract.

    French codified law 1, English Common law 0.

  • Laird

    Interesting to note (once again) how the Civil Law requires affirmative approval to do something (i.e., the implicit starting point is that everything is prohibited unless expressly permitted), whereas the Common Law takes the opposite approach and presumes that you can do anything unless it violates some positive law. I used to think that the Common Law approach was superior. Silly me.

  • Choey

    Who are these people who keep doing these things to you? Are they elected? Do you keep reelecting them? Why don’t they get voted out?

    Just curious..

  • And where do you live, Choey? Just curious…

  • Paul Marks

    Errr Antoine remember how the French Civil Code may be trumped by any government statute (just like English Common Law).

    For example, the “Code du Travail” adopted in France in 1912, the first major step away from the free labour market of the old code.

    So a better description would be…..

    English Common Law – zero.

    French Code Law – also zero.

    Neither prevents the government creating new laws – even once that blatently contradict the old laws.

    Where government can rip up the, basic, laws – then freedom is (at best) provisional.

    It exists till anti freedom whims come to influence government policy.

    “But where can government not do this?”


    No where.

    That is the problem.

  • Paul Marks

    How to have a free country.

    First have a good laws (laws that establish the principle of justice – i.e. to each their own) and ENFORCE them.

    But also prevent these laws be changed on whims – either by “interpreting” judges, or by governments simply passing statutes or regulations that undermine the basic limits on government power (the protections of civil society).

    Changing the fundemental laws should be a profound process – difficult and lengthy.

    Otherwise freedom will just be a passing phase – to be swept away by changing fashions.

  • Antoine Clarke

    I can rent out my flat just outside Paris for as much money as anyone is willing to pay, for as short a period of time as I wish.

    No doubt the French government COULD pass a law doing what the City of Westminster has done.

    But it hasn’t, and surely wouldn’t if the Olympics had been awarded to Paris.

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