‘Party house’ saga takes a new twist

THE owners of an Airbnb “party house” driving neighbours crazy have promised to end its current use and halve the maximum number of occupants.

But the saga of the property in a quiet Henleaze street took another twist when it emerged the couple have also appealed to the Planning Inspectorate against Bristol City Council’s failure to make a decision in time over external alterations after it was built differently to the permission granted.

“Frustrated” councillors have now refused to back down and, although they no longer have the final say, voted unanimously to fight the appeal on the grounds that they would have rejected the application.

The row erupted after landlords Hassan and Maryam Khaleghi built a five-bedroom house at 30 Hobhouse Close for up to 10 people to stay in via Airbnb when it only had consent as either a two-bedroom family home or a house in multiple occupation (HMO) for no more than five tenants.

Neighbours said their lives had been made a misery and accused the pair of “devious” tactics by creating a “revolving door” of unwanted guests drinking, fighting, shouting and playing loud music late at night.

But the owners insisted at a meeting of the council’s development control committee in December that it was never their intention for the building to be an Airbnb and that they were locked into a contract with a letting agent.

At the time, councillors deferred a decision on retrospective planning permission for minor external alterations to bring the property into line with the consent granted on appeal in August 2020, which followed the local authority’s refusal.

Officers had recommended giving the go-ahead because the proposed changes were deemed acceptable. They said neighbours’ complaints about its use fell outside planning considerations and were the subject of an ongoing investigation by the council’s enforcement team into whether more people were staying there than allowed under the HMO licence. Officers said that although the house had been divided up into five double bedrooms and advertised on Airbnb for up to 10 people, internal changes did not require planning consent.

The application returned to committee on January 18, where Mr Khalegi said in a statement: “Since the last meeting, we have negotiated with our current tenant and they have agreed to vacate the property by February 14. The property will be let as a five-bedroom, maximum five-occupant HMO on a 12-month tenancy agreement from then on.”

A report to members said: “On January 11 officers received confirmation from the applicant that they would be bringing the unauthorised use to an end.

“The planning enforcement team will inspect the use of the property soon after that date and the planning enforcement case will remain open until after the unauthorised use has ceased and the planning appeal has been decided. Officers maintain that the development is acceptable only subject to the planning conditions and that needs to be the basis of the case we put forward in respect of the appeal.”

But despite the owners’ promise and officers still recommending approval, members voted 8-0 that they would have refused permission had they still had the power to do so, to applause from the public gallery in the City Hall council chamber.

Committee chair Cllr Ani Stafford-Townsend said: “This is a case of repeated failures to comply with permissions. I take a very dim view of this, as I’m sure all my colleagues do.”

By Adam Postans, Local Democracy Reporting Service