Residents of many holiday destinations are disturbed by the increasing impact of tourism on their communities and the quality of their lives. However, as one case showed, the law can provide an effective means of restricting the number of properties let to holidaymakers.
The case concerned a house in a leafy cul-de-sac in one of Cornwall’s most popular seaside locations. Its owner wished to use it for holiday lets but encountered fierce objections from a couple who lived nearby. They pointed to a restrictive covenant contained in the property’s title deeds that confined its use to that of a private dwelling house.
The owner applied to the Upper Tribunal (UT) under the Law of Property Act 1925 for the covenant to be modified so as to enable its use for holiday lets. That, he argued, represented a reasonable use of the property that would have no measurable or practical impact on the couple’s enjoyment of their home. Steps would be taken to restrict use of the property to small family groups. Stag and hen parties would be banned.
Refusing the application, however, the UT noted that the presence of tourists in the cul-de-sac would increase the risk of wearisome neighbour disputes concerning noisy use of the property’s pool, cooking smells from barbecues and inconsiderate parking. Although it was not right to tar all holidaymakers with the same brush, a constantly changing cast of temporary visitors would be less likely to be interested in cultivating good relations with permanent residents.
The covenant provided assurance to the couple that the quiet character of the cul-de-sac would be preserved. Permitting the property’s use for what amounted to a business purpose would erode the very attributes – tranquillity, privacy and freedom from nuisance – that the covenant was designed to protect. Although the covenant dated back to 1964, it continued to provide a substantial benefit to the couple and amending it would cause them injury.