Long Cottage Lets

Letting a holiday cottage for a long period

Question

I usually let my cottage for one or two week periods. I have been approached by a couple relocating from overseas who want a 4 week let in our furnished 4 star self-catering holiday cottage. Is there any danger of their establishing some kind of tenancy/squatter rights? I would insist they paid in full in advance plus damage deposit by bank transfer. Any advice would be appreciated.

Answer

A holiday let is usually for a period of up to 31 days. This is a definition which both the planning and the tax authorities use and it is the reason why most agency systems will only let you make a 4 week booking. It normally includes utilities ( such as electricity, water, gas etc) and the bill for these is in the owners name not the holidaymakers name. Services such as cleaning and linen change are provided.

It is surprisingly common to let holiday properties for longer than just a week. Personally I have Australians who come every couple of years  for a month and we have taken people who are building or moving houses.

Its fine but I would suggest the following:

  • Confirmation letter stating the check in date and time and the check out date and time . This is your contract and an overstay would be a clear breach of it. This would also be useful evidence if any nosy parkers wanted to refer you to your county council for supposedly exceeding your holiday let durations.
  • Same letter stating exactly what is included in your rental  – see note below about utilities.
  • Same letter gives or gives link to your usual terms and conditions of business which will include reference to guests causing damage (this could be referring to your website if all of that is on there).
  • Same letter confirms price,  deposit  and when balance is due and any cancellation policy.
  • Same letter confirms  amount of damage/security deposit and how it is to be paid and how and when exactly it is to be refunded. Don’t take a cheque unless you have time to clear it before arrival as it could be stopped. Dogs and children are party members and damage by them is to be treated the same as damage by any other party member.
  • You do need to be firm about smoking because a smoker in a non-smoking property for a few days would be annoying but fairly easily aired away but smoke for a month would be a serious and expensive cleaning issue.
  • Letter needs to say that the party size who may sleep overnight in the property is x. It’s OK to have guests to visit but parties are not permitted. Overnight guests  are welcome at an extra charge of x per person per night please advise in advance so beds can be prepared properly.
  • Letter needs to state if pets are permitted (if not then this also means no pets who are “only” visiting for the day).

Suggest that you include fixed amounts of electricity and gas/oil in the rental fee. Term renters use more heat and power and do a lot of laundry and it is reasonable that they have full control of heating systems. You can charge for any excess against a meter reading but it is not legal to mark it up so you must say something like “First 100 units of electricity per week/per stay included. Extra units will be charged at cost which is currently x per unit inclusive of VAT. Balance to be paid in cash/by credit card on departure against a meter reading”

You need to state what you are doing about cleaning and linen change. If the house has a washing machine and a tumble drier you could give them 2 sets of linen and towels and let them process themselves however you might choose to provide clean stuff on a weekly basis and ask them to strip the bed and put a heap for collection ready. In exchange leave a basket of clean stuff. Better not to go into bedrooms to make up beds due to the presence of their stuff in the rooms.

As we don’t live at the property we also ask that if they need any maintenance (I don’t mean the very urgent sort but anything small such as something has come loose, blown light bulbs etc). They let us know by email before our visit (using the Wi-Fi which is included!) and we will do it when we attend. Agree a day of the week for this linen change and at that time provide a basic clean of kitchen and bathroom and do odd jobs like emptying the wood burner and cutting the grass and any notified maintenance. It needs to be by appointment for the sake of their privacy but it does also give you a legitimate access to ensure that your property is being well treated and this is reassuring.

You do have a right to enter a holiday property at any time if you fear damage to your property but otherwise you should not just go in without notice.

In any event you should not go into an occupied property alone if it can be helped as someone could accuse you of tampering with their things. This is easier said than managed though.

Note that after a month’s use the departure clean will take longer than a usual changeover clean.


This advice was provided by a member with great experience of holiday lets and would stand up as good and established practice.  However, if you have any doubt about your situation, you should consult a solicitor.

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