The Evening Standard reports on on the Government’s latest idea for cutting red tape and making the property market more flexible.

In an outdated, and usually unenforced, rule any Londoner wanting to rent out their property for less than three months has to seek planning permission, as this is considered a change of use under the 1973 Greater London Powers Act.

Housing Minister Kris Hopkins says:

“London is a holiday hotspot, with thousands of people visiting every year looking for somewhere comfortable and convenient to stay. Yet the capital’s homeowners get tangled in red tape each time they look to offer their homes. This, and the wide range of property websites offering opportunities to advertise homes for rent, makes this law increasingly outdated and unworkable.”

The consultation paper says:

Greater London, is subject to different rules and people are prevented from letting their property in Greater London on a short term basis. This means that if a person were to rent a property in London for less than 90 consecutive nights it would amount to a material change of use that would require a planning application to be submitted.

Local authorities in Greater London currently have discretion to take enforcement action against short-term letting whenever they consider it expedient to do so.

These London provisions from the 1970s have attracted controversy more recently, such as during the recent London Olympics. The internet has also seen changing patterns in short-term lets, as new technologies are helping facilitate householders rent out their homes for short periods of time without recourse to traditional letting agencies.

This is a very sensible change. Certainly many councils will have decided their priorities for enforcement action apply elsewhere. But it hardly enhances respect for the rule of law to rely on living in a borough where the planning officers are not complete jobsworths. The reform will help Londoners to gain some extra income and also make the capital an easier place for tourists and international investors to visit.

It’s just a pity that the rules hadn’t been liberalised in time for the 2012 Olympics.

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