Hundreds of short-term rental properties are inviting stags and hens to celebrate in the city. But while the revellers brought an estimated £15 million into the city’s economy last year, city residents say their lives are being blighted by the constant parties spreading into residential areas. Sarah Jessica Morgan and chief reporter Emily Walker report.
Families have said their lives are being made a misery by party houses.
There are now more than 500 short term rental properties – regularly referred to as “party houses” – across Brighton and Hove and residents fear they could take over without regulation to stop the spread.
Residents living in the Queen’s Park area have said the neighbourhood is the latest part of the city to be invaded by stags and hens.
They said they were regularly left to contend with late-night drinking, shouting, noise and music, without pre-warning from the property owners.
One Queen’s Park Road resident, who did not wish to be named, said she had been struggling to deal with “nightmare parties” while nursing a baby and with a husband recovering from major surgery.
She said: “Initially there were only a few parties each weekend, now we have disturbances every week.
“I can understand it’s not the hen and stag’s fault, obviously these people have paid a lot of money to stay in the houses, it’s the lack of planning by the council that is the problem.”
Karen Edwards, of South Down Mews, has a party house in her street.
She said: “At some point Brighton will tip over to become some faceless city with no local residents living in it.”
Another resident has said she has made plans to move out of the city because of the problems.
'Sold down the river'
Lorraine Waldron, who lives in the Queen’s Park Area, said: “Communities are being sold down the river, for one thing. Something has to stop.”
Alice Wright, who lives in Hove, said her life and those of her neighbours were made a nightmare when a party house was set up in a quiet mews. She said about 10 people held a party at a property and were drinking and shouting in the street.
She said: “One of our neighbours is quite elderly and he was too scared to go out. He was trapped in his flat for four days.”
Her neighbour, Dan Wilson, said that the operator, Brighton Holiday Homes, had not told anyone in the area it was going to be let as a holiday home.
He said: “It was Jubilee Weekend and the first thing we knew about it was when around 10 teenagers descended on the street. If it was a big road it wouldn’t have as much impact but this is a quiet area.”
Andy Winter, chief executive of Brighton Housing Trust, warned of the lack of regulation.
He said: “Party houses are not regulated. If you live in the wrong part of the city, night time partygoers can turn your life into a living hell.
Dexter Allen, of East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service, added that party houses did fall under fire safety legislation as they were not “domestic dwellings”.
He said: “The fire authority takes a view of supporting local economies and not over regulating or enforcing disproportionate regulation.
“These houses don’t require licences to operate, they are not HMOs [High Multiple Occupancies] because they don’t fall into the categories prescribed by the Housing Act. That is because when they operate as a party house, they become a business and we deal with them as sleeping accommodation.”
Tim Read, Brighton and Hove City Council director of environment, encouraged upset residents to report noisy stags and hens.
He said: “Hen and stag groups can be as responsive as anybody else, as are students, during our night-time work.
“If we need to knock on a door, nine times out of ten they will do exactly what you ask, they are decent people, they’re embarrassed and haven’t meant to cause a problem, some people aren’t like that, there are a small minority who will battle back.”
Brighton Holiday Homes manages the largest number of self-catering homes in Brighton and Hove and accommodated more than 15,000 people last year. The company relies on an average of 1,000 hen and stag parties to flock to the city every weekend.
Managing partner Michelle Stonehill said each weekend visitor brought an average £500 into the local economy and said many residents welcomed the houses.
She said: “The neighbours of our properties have actually told us that they are pleased the houses are no longer rented out to students or sharers.
“They are glad the houses have been refurbished as they improve the area and the neighbours have no trouble at all with them being rented at weekends.”
Geoffrey Bowden, Queen’s Park councillor and chair of the Economic Development and Culture Committee, said the city’s reputation as a party destination was “part of the city, and what makes it attractive”.
He added: “There is a positive side to the groups putting sticky money into our economy, but we cannot diminish the aggravation and anxiety created in what should be family communities and those things will have to be addressed.”
‘Party houses’ are regulated and within the law
In 2011 there were estimated to be 300 “party houses” in Brighton and Hove.
East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service estimates there are approximately 500 short term lets in and around the city.
Brighton and Hove City Council received 3,381 noise complaints in the last financial year, of which 2,435 related to domestic cases including noisy neighbours.
Brighton Holiday Homes list 96 properties – with room for up to 27 people in each – on their website.
Crown Gardens offers another 117 properties and offers a range of “treats” to enhance the hen and stag party experience – ranging from bare bottomed butlers to burlesque and pole dancing.
A map on Crown Gardens’ website shows the houses spread across residential neighbourhoods as well as the city centre.
They describe themselves as “perfect for hen and stag groups”.
A spokesman said: “Crown Gardens Ltd is a responsible agency and does take into account the potential impact to neighbours and residents in the surrounding area.
“We take noise and antisocial behaviour complaints very seriously. Fortunately, however, these are very rare and amount to less that 0.7 per cent of more than 1,450 booking that have taken place so far this year.
“In response to noise complaints and domestic disturbances across the city, the landlords of our properties have drawn up contracts with Sussex Security Solutions, who offer a rapid response call-out service.
“We can confirm that the landlords of the Southdown Mews properties subscribe to this service and have only had cause to use this once since its inspection at the beginning of June this year.
“No complaints have been received during 2012 from the council’s environmental health department with regard to these properties.”
Party noise misery ends with two prosecutions
Only two people have ever been prosecuted in relation to party houses.
Helen Sywak and Pasqua Biscardi let their adjoining properties in Cliff Road, Brighton, to groups of revellers, who caused a repeated nuisance |to neighbours |with partying and karaoke.
The couple were fined £12,000 in February 2012 after admitting six counts each of breaching noise abatement notices issued by Brighton and Hove City Council.
Talking point: How important are party houses, hen nights and stag nights to Brighton and Hove's economy?
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