Short-term lets

The law about short-term lets

  • Do you want to let your flat or house through Airbnb, HomeAway, or any other holiday letting platform?
  • Do you want to let it on a short-term basis, for example as a serviced apartment or a holiday home?
  • Is a flat in your block or neighbourhood being used as a holiday home?

When do you need planning permission?

You need planning permission if you let your property for a series of short periods that add up to more than 90 nights during any calendar year.  

You also need planning permission if you are not liable to pay council tax on the property you are letting out on a short-term basis. 

It is against the law to let your property without planning permission for more than 90 nights in a year, or if you are not the Council Tax payer, and fines for doing so have recently been increased from £20,000 to an unlimited amount.

Whenever somebody significantly changes the way in which a building is used, they are likely to need planning permission. 

A short-term let is where a property is rented out to the same person(s) for less than 90 consecutive nights. 

Before the Deregulation Act 2015 came into force, planning permission was needed for every short-term let of a property. This is because it changed the way a property was being used - from one used as a home to one used as a holiday home or for other commercial purposes.

The Deregulation Act 2015 changed this. Since October 2015, planning permission is only needed for some short term letting. You no longer need planning permission for short-term letting as long as two conditions apply:

  • the total number of nights that a property is used for short term must not exceed 90 nights letting in a calendar year (1 January to 31 December)
  • at least one of the persons providing the accommodation for short term letting must be liable to pay Council Tax at the property where the short term accommodation is provided

This means that you must apply for planning permission if you short-term let your property for more than 90 nights in total during any calendar year, regardless of how many separate occasions during the year it has been let, or if you are not liable to pay council tax on the property you are letting out.  

This is because after 90 nights, a material change of use from a residential dwelling (Class C3) to a short term let property is deemed to have occurred.  Short term let properties fall within the same planning use class as hotels, boarding and guest houses (Class C1).

We aim to stop the abuse of residential accommodation

Housing is precious in our borough – 19,000 Tower Hamlets households are on our waiting list either homeless or living in unsuitable accommodation. The council’s target under the London Plan is to deliver at least 39,314 new homes by 2025, Changing homes into permanent or semi-permanent commercial holiday homes makes the housing crisis even worse and reduces our ability to meet our housing targets.

For that reason, our Planning Policy says: “Development that would involve the net loss of residential floor space, residential units of any family housing will be resisted”. (Managing Development Document (2013) Policy DM3).

Applications to change the use of residential properties to short term lets are highly unlikely to comply with this policy, and we may therefore refuse planning permission. 

Unregulated short-term letting can also put Tower Hamlets residents at risk:

  • misuse can cause a fire risk, especially in blocks of flats
  • misuse can increases noise nuisance and anti-social behaviour
  • misuse can reduces security for residents
  • misuse can undermine community cohesion.

People using properties for short-term letting beyond the 90-night limit without planning permission are acting unlawfully.

Because of the risks associated with unlawful short-term letting, and the loss of precious homes that it
causes, the council will seek to regularise the lawful use of the property.

This could include the issue of an Enforcement Notice on freeholders, leaseholders, insurance providers, mortgage providers, and any other person having a legal interest (i.e. ownership) in the property.

Non-compliance with an Enforcement Notice is a criminal offence and anyone found guilty could face an unlimited fine in the Magistrates’ or Crown Court. 

The council may also share concerns about unlawful short-term letting with the Tax Office, HMRC.

Other permission you need to short-term letting

Before using your property for any short-term letting, you will also need other kinds of permission:

  • permission from your insurer
  • permission from your freeholder if you own the property
  • permission from your mortgage provider if you hold a mortgage
  • permission from your landlord if you are a tenant.

Using a property for short-term letting without these permissions may lead to action against you that could end in you losing your home or property. If you hold a tenancy from a housing association or from the council, you could also go to prison for tenancy fraud.

Landlord licensing

If you let out a house, a flat, or a room for an agreed period of more than 90 nights in a row to a single person or to people who live together as one household, then you are a residential landlord.  This applies regardless of how you find your tenants.

If you are a residential landlord in certain parts of the borough, you must by law obtain a license from the council. Failure to do so can lead to very significant fines and to criminal prosecution. Visit our selective landlord licensing page for more information.

If you are a residential landlord letting out multiple rooms in a house or a flat, you may also need to obtain a license from the council. Failure to do so can lead to very significant fines and to criminal prosecution. Visit our selective landlord licensing for further information pages.

Is a flat in your block or neighbourhood being used as a holiday home?

Report criminal behaviour to the police – in an emergency, call 999. If it is not an emergency, call 101. Any issues, please report a problem to Airbnb.

Contact us

Private Sector Housing Strategy

Tower Hamlets Town Hall
160 Whitechapel Road
E1 1BJ