Converting a garage into 2 rooms for AirBnB

Morning all and Merry Christmas!

This goes out to any hosts who have obtained planing permission to convert an outbuilding in the UK and more specifically London to rent on airBnB, I live in Lewsham borough, but I think lots of boroughs are the same.

I’m in the process of going for planning to convert my garage at the bottom of the garden (own access) into 2 rooms with a small kitchen and bathroom. Last week I had a meeting with the planning department and they told me that I would highly likely be allowed a permitted development for incidental use, i.e. as an office or gym or playroom for the kids. It was my plan to convert this into a space to rent out on AirBnB (i currently rent out my spare room in the house) I’m a single Mum looking to create an income to support me and the kids and so really want to do this so I can rent it out for that purpose.

It’s a big long term investment and I’ll need to rent it out initially in order to pay for it.

if I go for it and then after renting it get told to stop that will really stuff me and the kids up financially. Anyone been here, thoughts or advice would be much appreciated!

This is an international group, so from an Australian point of view, we can’t do this as a living space as the garage is not built to living in standards and the whole thing would need to be re engineered. This is why you would have approval for secondary use, not living in.


This is an international group. But even as an American (we can do that sort of renovation easily) I’ve heard that London has cracked down hard on STRs. If I remember right it’s a total of 60 days per year??? Perhaps that’s only inner city? I would certainly get something in writing from your planning commission that says YES you can use the space for STRs before you spend a dime on renovation.


In addition there are many risks to doing Airbnb in addition to the laws changing. This is true of starting any business. So do your research on the costs, your potential market, etc. Make sure it would be suitable as a long term rental if need be so you can take on a tenant if all else fails.

I’m not sure I completely understand the question, but I’m think that the main problem is that your building permit may not allow you to do short-term rentals in the conversion. If that’s the case, please don’t even start. Do your research and make sure you are 100% compliant.
Operating illegally, even if not intentional, just provides more reasons to impose regulations on short-term rentals that negatively affect all hosts.

If you are sure that short-term rentals are allowed before you start your building project, then the other problem is how to cover your investment if regulations change sometime in the future and you are banned from doing short-term rentals. In that case, you should make sure your conversion is also compliant for long-term rentals. Do the research on your expected costs and income and make sure it would be a viable back-up plan.

I think its a good idea. In the near future when self-driving cars become more prevalent, more and more people are going to look to repurpose garages that used to be for cars.

You’re looking at significant cost to build all of that. Probably $10,000-30,000 depending on how you did it. It would probably add to the value of your property but I’m not sure how much.

Where does your main sewer stack come down in your house? If its on the side of the house thats facing the garage, you could rent a backhoe and dig a trench 2-3 meters down from your garage to the house. Then you could lay PVC sewer pipe and connect it to your sewer main. You mentioned there’s an elevation difference so that could complicate things if the stretch is too long or the slope isn’t steep enough.

Once you lay the sewer pipe, you cover it with a little dirt and then lay a ribbon identifying it as sewer. Next you lay the fresh water pipe from your house to the garage here. Cover it with dirt and lay another ribbon. On top of this you can run your gas line. Finally on top would be your electric. Your main electric panel and gas regulator would probably need to be changed out too.

A challenge you’re going to have might be that the floor is going to be cold since there’s no crawlspace or insulation under a garage floor usually. You might consider installing radiant in floor heating but keep in mind you’ll be wasting a lot of that heat by sending it into the ground with no insulation. If I had to guess, I’d guess you don’t have enough headroom in the garage to add a subfloor or build up on the existing floor much.

You could hire unlicensed handymen to do the work and not pull permits or get inspections. In case of a total loss, you might not be covered by your insurance however so you’re taking on some risk there. The other thing you could do is go ahead and build the garage out to the specification you want but leave out the utilities, get permits for the framing and get it inspected. Then after its inspected, you could build out the kitchen and bathroom. This would probably increase your taxes but you’d probably be covered by insurance then and if the neighbors complained or something, you’d at least have some record of a permit pulled. You’d have to make sure the local government doesn’t figure out that you’ve added the bathroom and kitchen after the fact though. That can be hard to do if this garage is attached to an alley and they could just stroll on up and look in a window or knock on the door and ask your Airbnb guests.

If you got caught, yes they could make you tear it all out worst case scenario. Or they might just ask you to get permits and get the work inspected but forbid anyone from living in there. You could ask for a variance and it’d probably depend on if your neighbors approve of it or not.

So really your biggest problem here is people. Without significant privacy, this is going to be difficult to do without much risk of trouble for you.

Why do people insist on trying to host spaces that they have been informed it is illegal to do? It leads to regulations being put in place which affect all hosts, even the ones who are fully complying with local laws.
Not only could Melissa’s listing be shut down without ever really getting off the ground, after all that outlay of $, she could be fined.
@Melissa_Wyatt Consider the office route for a rental, as it seems that would be a permitted use- depending on how you renovate it, it could be a great space for a massage therapist, a psychologist, etc, to run a private practice out of. You’d have a steady, dependable income, a good tenant, rather than luck-of-the-draw STR guests, and it would probably only be used during business hours.

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I applaud your creativity! Because of the shortage of housing everywhere, it helps to keep an open mind.

The big problem we found was with plumbing. You will need running water and a toilet. The first isn’t so bad, but you will need a water heater. The second - eco toilets are very handy expensive and take up a lot of room.

Thr fastest way to put in heat is electric, but it’s very expensive. We suggest overcode insulation.

For cooking, limit yourself to microwaves.

Rooms like this tend to attract long term guests. They also attract lowlives. Make sure you have A+ security.

All of this has to be passed by your City, and your insurance company. Be prepared for setbacks.

Oh yes, fire codes, and almost certainly, increased taxes!.

…or you can keep it simple. Rent a room in your house. :wink:

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Good point on the written reply. Melissa, make sure whoever writes that letter can legally speak on behalf of the government. A person on the planning commission (if that is what you have) may not be able to make legal binding decisions as an individual. In US it is very important to make sure that opinions are sent by a person who can legally speak for the government body. Good luck. Curt Peterson

If the planning department only considers your conversion “incidental use” that’s not encouraging.

I wouldn’t do it unless you have a clear say-so that it would be accepted for residential use without restriction on length of your leases.

In my town they started permitting ADU’s (accessory dwelling units - like garage apartments), but they only allow them for 90+ day leases. It looks like the best financial decision is to keep renting out a suite in my home and keep the garage for personal/incidental use.

The office space suggestion is a good one that you’ll also have to run by your equivalent of zoning commission.