‘Parties, prostitutes and drug dealers’ – The horror of living next door to rowdy London tenants – My London



“We’ve come to dread the sound of wheelie suitcases,” said one South Kensingtin couple as they recalled their experiences of living near a short-term let property.

The property is within easy reach of the museums and some of London’s most iconic tourist attractions and would be a useful base for attending festivals, shows and Carnival as well.

“We have been subjected to parties, prostitutes, drugs, drug dealing, fights in the street, we’ve had prostitutes ringing the doorbell at 3am, we’ve had 12 people staying in a home for far fewer.”

They agreed to speak about their experiences anonymously and said they were relieved the short term lets near them are now closed down.

Food deliveries in the early hours

Other disruptions include food deliveries in the early hours, people allegedly smoking cannabis in the street and traffic blocking the road.

And one group “literally had guys falling out of the window”, they claimed.

One day another group walked into the couple’s home and tried to go upstairs.

At first they didn’t realise short-term lets in their street would be so disruptive.

“It started very slowly and then it ballooned,” they said with guests staying at the three-bedroom home virtually every day of the year.

According to research from London Councils the number of short-term lets in Kensington and Chelsea rose from 1,552 properties being used for short-term lets in 2015 to 5,723 last year – that’s seven per cent of the homes in the borough.

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Bid for a registration scheme

The council is lobbying for a registration scheme for short-term letting.

It follows a motion by councillors Malcolm Spalding and Greg Hammond who have dealt with case work from councillors affected by short-term lettings advertised through a range of websites including Airbnb and bookings.com amongst others.

The borough has the fourth highest number of short-term lets in London and 2,500 of them breach planning rules and as full time commercial lets are “a permanent loss to our housing stock”, said councillor Spalding.

A fifth of properties in his Earls Court ward are second homes – and are either empty or let out.

And he said about 15 per cent of short-term letters “are abusing the system, depleting our housing stock, creating anti-social behaviour and waste management problems”.

He said there are 280 hosts with more than 10 properties and one “superhost actually has 820 properties.”

Breaching the letting limits

Greg Hammond said some flats have gone back onto the tenancy market since lockdown “but the problem has not gone away”. He warned the problems “will re-emerge” as lockdown eases.

“It’s very worrying that if they permanently breach the 90-day short term letting limit and aren’t detected with that after five years, short-term letting can become an established use and those properties are permanently lost as dwellings.”

The councillors want the government to ensure short-term lets are licensed, compulsory registration and a pilot scheme in the three most affected wards – Earls Court, Pembridge – convenient for Notting Hill – and Courtfield which serves the museums in South Kensington.

‘Carnage’

The South Kensington couple said it can be an absolute nightmare living near those who breach the rules.

“The carnage that can be caused”, they said, and explained the police were sometimes caused to deal with problems.

Things got so bad that they even considered moving as they found the noise, anti-social behaviour and the constant new arrivals too disruptive.

“I said I do not want to be here anymore, I am frightened of living in my area. It’s constant stress.”

Some people even pretended the property was their own home, they said.

The rules mean that people are only allowed to rent out properties for holidaymakers for short-term lets for up to 90 days a year.

But this couple estimated that anyone who rents a property in central London as a business needs to rent throughout the year to turn a profit.

The property near them was rented out for about £450 a night – and had been rented for about £1,600 a week,

“They need to be letting for 250 days a year to make a profit. They need to be churning those places so much and they advertise in many different groups. One near us was advertised as a hotel,” they said.

‘Nobody to complain to’

Their misery was compounded by the rapid turnaround of people and the sounds of washing machines cleaning bed linen and towels.

And they said the property near them was advertised on seven different websites to attract business.

“There’s nobody to complain to,” they said.

Another South Kensington resident, Fiona Gregory, described the growing realisation of what was going on in her building.

She said: “One of my fears was there were no checks on this apartment whatsoever.” She feared that other residents could be put at risk from fire or electrical safety issues or carbon monoxide poisoning.

Her problems lasted for four years and she came to expect the unexpected – even a set of truck wheels was left in the communal hallway.

And she said late-night noise impacted on her sleep – crucial as she had to get up early for work.

She said “it caused great unpleasantness” having to complain about some guests’ behaviour.

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“Whenever I was disturbed I would go and knock on the door. One day there were about 20 18-year-old girls having a party in the flat.”

Taking money from the hotel industry

She said the short term lets take money from the hotel industry.

“I would rather it did not happen at all. But if they register for safety reasons it is far preferable to what is happening at the moment.”

Councils advise residents to keep a log of the comings and goings to build up enough evidence to take action – often on planning grounds.

Residents who wanted to stay anonymous said one of their concerns was the lack of safety controls – with issues such as fire safety at the forefront of their concerns.

“There is no way that anyone can regulate them. They can flout fire regulations,” said the South Kensington couple.

And the market for short-term lets has made it harder for people to afford property locally.

Although they welcome any steps to regulate the lets, they think it is simply not suitable for residential areas and think they should be banned outright – following in the footsteps of Barcelona.

“Residential areas should remain residential areas,” they said.

If you have a story for us, please email our reporter julia.gregory@reachplc.com