Barnsbury homeowner’s Airbnb hell: ‘Noise forced me to sleep in my car’
PUBLISHED: 07:00 02 February 2017
Culture, food, proximity to the City – Islington is a top tourist destination. So there’s a huge market for people renting out their homes on Airbnb. But as the Gazette hears, it can be a headache for those who live here full-time.
Dionne Duncan reached the end of her tether on a hot night in August. Desperately needing a good night’s sleep, she was kept awake by loud banging in the Airbnb-let flat above.
“People were having thunderous sex upstairs,” she recalls. “I had a 7.15am flight. There was nothing for it – I actually went out and slept in my car.”
Airbnb is a website that allows people to list and rent their properties for short-term lodgings. The horror stories usually centre around landlords finding their homes ransacked or destroyed.
But neighbours can have it just as bad. In the past year, complaints to Islington Council about “nuisance” noise from Airbnb properties increased to 45: up from six the previous year.
Ms Duncan, 41, has lived in her basement flat in Offord Road, Barnsbury, for four years. The problems began in January last year, when the ground floor tenants moved out and the flat was listed on Airbnb.
The Gazette meets the self-employed IT programme manager on a Thursday. Ms Duncan claims she was restricted to three-and-a-half hours’ sleep the night before.
She describes a typical night: “I come home from work, make some food, relax and try to go to bed at about 11pm. This is where I start to feel nervous. Every sound is like a volt and the more it happens, the more sensitive you become to it.
“Doors will start slamming. I can hear people stomping through. Conversations rain through the ceiling. Last night they were talking about one of their friends, whose 22-year-old son is apparently dealing weed at Manchester University.”
But what is the difference between Airbnb users in holiday mode and noisy neighbours?
Ms Duncan answers: “These people come and go. They are never there for more than three days. On the other hand, if someone is living there permanently, it is more of a community. You would expect them to be more considerate to neighbours’ routines.
“The guests have not been bad people. Some have even posted notes apologising for any noise made.
“I like the idea of Airbnb – I have used it myself. But this building should not be a full-time hotel.”
Cllr Diarmaid Ward, the town hall housing boss, is also unhappy at the number of Airbnb properties – 306 as of Tuesday – listed in Islington.
In spring, Airbnb is to block London hosts renting out homes for more than 90 days a year, unless they have official consent.
Emily van Eyssen, owner of the ground floor Airbnb flat above Ms Duncan, refused to comment when approached by the Gazette – citing ongoing legal proceedings.
It is listed as a “super new flat” off “cosmopolitan” Caledonian Road, accomodating four people. It features a “stunning” bedroom and open plan living room. “Lovely fluffy cotton towels” are provided on arrival.
The three house rules are no smoking, no parties and keeping noise to a minimum after 10pm.
From 69 reviews of the property, it has an average four-and-a-half star rating. However, the most recent said: “The beds were the most uncomfortable I have ever experienced.”
But Cllr Ward told the Gazette: “Airbnb pushes up rent for long-term residents and takes housing stock out of supply. Landlords can make a lot more money from short-term Airbnb lets.
“In terms of neighbours, the first thing we do is call in our anti-social behaviour team. What we really need is for the government to give us power to enforce. But I am very happy to take on this lady’s case.”
After sleeping in her car in August, Ms Duncan scrawled on her front window, for Offord Road to see: “A night’s sleep is impossible here as full-time Airbnb up there.”
Ms Duncan and the ground floor flat owner, Emily van Eyssen, are in the middle of legal proceedings.
She describes the impact on her life over the past 13 months: “It makes me feel sick. And what p***** me off is that I lost my gravitas interacting with people.
“But I can’t let it crush my general happiness. Nothing is going to change so I have to go on the front foot – that’s why I put the message on my front window.
“The legal proceedings isn’t about going to the courts to get some money – I just want to sleep!”
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