A LANDMARK planning decision banning a landlord from using an Oxford house for short term lets could spell the beginning of tighter controls on AirBnBs and similar accommodation.

A property on William Street can no longer be used for short term lets, after a lengthy planning battle has ended with the council banning its owner letting it out.

Last year, Oxford City Council slapped a planning enforcement notice on the owner of the property, after a nearby resident complained of antisocial behaviour and nuisance.

The owner appealed to the Planning Inspectorate, but the government body has now dismissed the appeal and said they must stop using it as a short let from this month.

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Off the back of this, the council is urging other landlords to apply for proper permission before they let out their homes as short term lets, which a senior councillor said has led to the loss of 'valuable family homes'.

It is also calling on the government to regulate AirBnB lets and similar properties.

The city council said it has noticed 'a rapid increase in the number of short let properties in Oxford since the rise of websites like Airbnb and Homeaway'.

A search by the council in February on one short lets website found there were nearly 1,500 short lets available in Oxford.

The council has very few powers to regulate the numbers of short let houses, and landlords are able to make the change to short term lettings without planning permission on some occasions.

Planning permission is only required when a ‘material change’ in the use of a property is made.

Oxford Mail:

William Street, Oxford. Picture: Google Maps

This means councils are not automatically notified when entire homes become used for short lets, and rely on complaints from neighbours about noise and antisocial behaviour to start action against landlords.

The city council has argued short term lets could be considered a material change as 'a matter of judgement based on the facts of the case'.

And in the William Street property, it used the argument that the owner had breached planning law by not declaring it as a short term let to enforce a ban.

A planning inspector who went to visit the building after the owner appealed agreed there were grounds to ban the owner from using it as a short term let.

A report by the inspector said 'a largely transient pattern and frequency of occupation' showed the property was a short let rather than a normal dwelling house.

In the past, short term lets in Oxford have been used for loud parties or even as brothels.

READ AGAIN about some of the uses reported by the city council here

Now the city council is considering banning other landlords from operating unauthorised short term lets throughout the year.

It's cabinet member for planning and housing delivery, Alex Hollingsworth, said: “There are hundreds of short let properties in Oxford and almost none of them have planning permission. This means we have no record of which properties are short lets or any way of taking quick action against landlords.

“I first asked the government to take action on this more than two years ago. I realise there are other priorities right now but this nettle should have been grasped long before the pandemic hit."

He added: “Short lets in Oxford have resulted in a loss of valuable family homes. In some extreme cases, short lets have been used for regular loud parties and even as brothels. This case shows that we do take the issue seriously and we will chase landlords through the legal system if necessary."

Green city councillor Craig Simmons, who supported the appeal, said: "Clearly, we need to get the balance right. Short lets have a place in Oxford but they must have the appropriate planning designation and not cause noise and nuisance to neighbours. Although this appeal success is good news, nothing much will change until we have proper national legislation."

The news was also welcomed by the council's Lib Dem opposition leader, Andrew Gant, who said: "This is welcome- like many councillors I have had residents in my ward complaining about the effect of some (not all) short-term lets, not just noise but also burden on services like bins and access. We need a proper regulatory framework from government, but this is a welcome first step."

Oxford Mail:

'Boozy parties and pop-up brothers have been discovered at short term lets in Oxford in the past'

Last October, the council announced it was cracking down on AirBnBs and similar properties being used for raucous parties in Oxford.

This followed calls from AirBnB's director of public policy, Patrick Robinson, for the Government to create a register of short let properties, and require planning permission for accommodation let on a short term basis for more than 140 nights a year.

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Oxford City Council has started maintaining a register of all privately rented accommodation in the city, following 10 years of registering HMOs.

In 2018, the council faced embarrassment when a flat above the town hall was advertised on AirBnB on its behalf by estate agent JCP.

At the time, the council said it was ‘very unhappy indeed’ with how the flat had been used.