Homeowners left feeling ‘trapped’ as rowdy holiday lets ‘takeover’ flats

Residents say, holiday lets are taking over a block of flats in Cambridge, causing serious disruption.

A block of flats on Flamsteed Close, near the station, has roughly 15 short-term-let apartments, with an estimated thousands of guests checking in per year and allegedly causing noise and property damage.

In October 2018, CambridgeshireLive reported that around 200 party-goers took over the building, vandalising the building and threatening residents who phoned the police, but residents say this is not a one-off.

One person living in the building said that the property owners renting out flats were “actively profiting off the misery of their neighbours” by allowing parties to go ahead, even during lockdown, for an added fee to cover cleaning costs.

A now-deleted listing on a well-known short term letting site said: “Basic cleaning fee has been included, however, if you plan to have a party here, an extra cleaning fee applies.”

The resident, who preferred to stay anonymous, said his flat was surrounded by short term lets, which are noisy and disruptive.

The capacity for each flat is about four people, but residents claim to have noticed upwards of 20 people go into one flat on some occasions.

“We’ve had major issues from this, including property damage,” said the resident.

“The gate was breaking constantly, from residents forcing the gate and going in through the wrong entrance, costing residents upwards of £19,000 just to fix it continually.

“There’s been antisocial activities, abuse from party-goers, all sorts.

“We expected with the Covid situation that it would stop, but there have been even more short term lets added since. They’re breaking Covid regulations.

“One is right next door to me. Some allow checking-in at 3am even, which you can imagine, people trundling in suitcases wakes us up.

“And because the buildings are multi-tiered, some guests drink a lot and vomit straight off the deck onto properties below.”

The residents have been reporting disruptive short term lets since as early as 2018.

Residents claim the guests can cause disruption and noise.
(Image: Cambridge News)

He added: “This goes beyond our little close. This is an issue across Cambridge.”

He said the situation was frustrating, as Cambridge already has a shortage of housing in the city, but what little is available was being swallowed up by investors.

The use of short term letting sites, such as Airbnb, has been criticised in the past.

Short term lets are usually more profitable than renting out a property in the long term, which reduces the number of available properties to residents in cities popular with tourists, such as London and Cambridge, increasing the demand and prices as a result.

Flats near Flamsteed Close with two bedrooms and two bathrooms cost between £1,175 to £3,500 a month to rent.

One of the most expensive Flamsteed Close flats available for short stays is priced at £3,775 per night for dates in December and January, whereas one night for two people in September is priced at £501.

A 2015 study in Barcelona, for example, found that there was a link between the concentration of Airbnb properties in a neighbourhood and higher rents.

The resident added: “Because we have to live and work in the same place, essentially I’m living and working in a hotel right now.

“From my property, if I look outside my office I can see at least five short term lets directly in front of me, and one next to me, and then from my bedroom are five more.

“I’m completely surrounded by them, and they have a high turnover so every day there’s upwards of 12 people coming in and out, drinking and shouting.

“It’s actually unlivable now.”

In 2018, a party of 200 spiralled out of control.
(Image: Cambridgeshire Live)

Many residents who have bought their flats feel “trapped” and say they would not buy their property again.

“Some people are committed to managing their properties well, and some meet their guests and go to an effort, but a lot of them are very hands off,” he said.

“They have no staff on site so we’re all unpaid employees for these short term lets, we’re not getting paid, and we’re suffering from it.

“It’s also a security concern. Most guests are perfectly polite but it only takes a few per year to make our lives really difficult.”

One property management company that manages flats in the building, Peymans, has at least eight flats for rent, with each sleeping a maximum of six people.

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A spokesperson for the company said they did not have any short term lets in the building anymore, but there is a listing for Flamsteed Close on Booking.com managed by Peymans since July 2016 with 151 guest reviews, the most recent of which is from June 2020.

Peymans said the last time a room in the building was let out by them was in March.

It is also still possible to book a room on Booking.com now, and CambridgeshireLive also spoke to the sales team to enquire about booking a room at Flamsteed Close, and the team responded asking for information about the check in and check out dates.

A Booking.com spokesperson said: “At Booking.com, if we are made aware of an issue or complaint caused by guests at a property booked via our site, we take it seriously, investigate thoroughly and will work with the property owner and any relevant local authorities to ensure that the necessary policies and procedures are in place to prevent such situations in the future.

“This includes additional checks and security measures to be taken during the check-in process, as well as establishing a clear no-party policy for the property.

“If further disturbances to neighbours persist then we can and have removed properties from our platform. This is decided on a case by case basis.”

Airbnb did not respond to a request for a comment.

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