Brighton Holiday Homes: a neighbour reflects…

Watching the tweets from the Brighton and Hove Chamber of Commerce Big Debate on the motion “this house believes that Brighton’s night time economy is tarnishing the city’s brand” was interesting.

But I was very surprised to see people praising “responsible” firm Brighton Holiday Homes, represented on the night by Managing Partner Michelle Stonehill. Apparently she talked* about the measures her company takes with rowdy guests. Brighton Holiday Homes lets flats and houses to tourists in our great city by the sea.

Apparently, Stonehill waxed about how Brighton Holiday Homes care about the neighbours and make efforts to shield locals from unruly guests. They have a 24 hour hotline for neighbours and a car patrols all the properties (especially the party houses), every hour, on Friday and Saturday night to ensure all is tickety-boo. That’s what she said, I believe.

I was aghast. Open mouthed. This woman has more front than Brighton herself, I thought. Even Martha Gunn, our fair city’s most distinguished dipper, never saw so much cheek. I live opposite one of Michelle Stonehill’s Brighton holiday homes and I know that she was talking, shall we we say, bollocks.

I won’t go into details but we’ve experienced some very rowdy weekends this year down our way as a result of our new, unannounced, local Brighton Holiday Home. My neighbour Alice Wright very eloquently blogged about her own concerns a few months ago on the Argus website.

In short: Brighton Holiday Homes took on the house across the road in a very quiet spot of Hove. It was marketed originally as a house for groups on their website and no patrols were ever to be seen until complaints were made about the noise.

I’m almost impervious to noise but some of Stonehill’s guests were rowdy beyond belief. The nadir was the Jubilee weekend. Brighton Holiday Homes let the small three-bed house on our little street to a party of at least fifteen people. Party being the operative word. A bit of noise is fine. But their din was non-stop for four days.

Let me say: we never did see that patrol car Michelle Stonehill raves about. Not once. Let alone every evening. One neighbour thinks he might have seen a seen a seagull declaiming Shakespeare in a tiny ruff collar (those reports are unconfirmed), but we certainly NEVER, EVER did see that Brighton Holiday Homes patrol car.

When everyone in the street complained though, Brighton Holiday Homes did eventually listen. But it took days to get a response. Now, at the holiday let, family groups are preferred and it’s been much quieter. (We still have to act as “concierge”, on occasion, to arriving guests who can’t find the house: the chat on the Brighton Holiday Home‘s website about hosts and welcoming parties is as mythical as the patrols. Blimey. Did you just see that unicorn?)

A fair outcome? Yes, perhaps. But a lot of heartache and annoyance to get there. And it took time to get Brighton Holiday Homes to even open a dialogue with the neighbours.

As for the 24 hour hotline? We didn’t know the house had become a holiday let, we didn’t know who was letting it and so we had to snoop about to find out anything.

But this isn’t a post about noise. It’s a post about community. A holiday home in the street adds nothing. It only takes away. People come and go at weekends, often it stands empty, there’s noone to get to know, build a bond with, learn from. That holiday home on my street is just a community void.

What angers me though, and spurred me to write this post months after the event of rowdy visitors, is the lie. The claim from Brighton Holiday Homes at the Chamber debate that they are responsible and care about the neighbours. No. No. Just not true.

Where is the prominent, frontpage neighbour link on the Brighton Holiday Homes website for starters? And if Michelle Stonehill cares about our street. Why has she has never been to visit the holiday let that in part pays her (doubtless lavish) salary?

As a Brightonian, I am wedded to the notion that to complain about visitors and tourists is like moaning about the pebbles on the beach. It’s what we are. The city must be welcoming to all the people who come and enjoy the place. But it does seem to me that if there are people seeking profit from tourism, such as Michelle Stonehill, that they should respect their fellow citizens rather more than they do and contribute a lot more to the city’s coffers.

And I may well have a few ideas on that… (watch this space!). It is surely time to ensure that holiday lets, and agencies such as Brighton Holiday Homes, pay their way rather than just leach money and spirit from Brighton and Hove.

* I wasn’t there. I take the info from tweets reporting the event.

7 Responses to Brighton Holiday Homes: a neighbour reflects…

  1. Hi Dan
    Despite the personally insulting tone, I’m happy to respond. It simply isn’t true to say we don’t have a noise patrol. We do have a noise patrol for the very large group houses that accommodate hen and stag groups. This house didn’t fall into that category and was let to a group of 8 language students who had a Jubilee party. We first received an email from you on the Wednesday after the bank holiday and it was replied to with a sincere apology and with the number of the noise patrol given so that the future bookings could be monitored and dealt with. The office was open all over the weekend and had an answer phone emergency number for out of hours had you contacted us before. The following weekend you experienced a problem so we I hand delivered a letter of genuine regret and apology to all residents that we had misjudged the area and stated that the house would only ever be let to family groups of four in future.So it was exactly one week I believe since our first contact with you that the whole problem was resolved.
    What underpins our business phiosophy is that we want to work with neighbours. We are on a learning curve and and one of the things we are going to do is put a notice in all new properties with our details on it so neighbours can see who is managing it. But we are responsible and our noise patrol even has a GPS tracker so we know where it is at any time.
    The holiday homes industry is very important to Brighton, creates a great deal of jobs and helps secondary indusries to survive. I truly welcome neighbours coming to us when there is a problem and we do not want them to suffer in silence. We will always listen to them and respond as we did with you and try to resolve it very quickly, as we did for you.
    I am sorry I have made you so angry about this incident that happened in the past. Although I have to say I am genuinely perplexed as to why you can’t move on when we have genuinely and sincerely apologised and resolved this very quickly. We have also improved our business as a result with the GPS tracker in the patrol car. I sincerely hope we can move forward and I understand you have only thrown insults because you are angry. Please call me if there is anything else I can do.

  2. Just need to add something to clarify a point. Where you say “It took days to get a response”.This is not actually true. We replied to your first contact by email the same day you emailed us. Looking at times it was five hours later but Catherine had spoken on the phone to Alice in the meantime. As I said though, please call me if there is anything else we can do and I am very sincere when I say I hope we can move on from this. Michelle

  3. Chiis says:

    8 Students for a party in a three bed house? How does that work then – a couple in one room and ménage à trios orgies in the other two? Have to say I’ve never known a student party where the numbers didn’t instantly double or treble from those who officially booked. Drinking copious amounts invariably means no driving home before sobering up in the morning.

    My belated 25 year late apologies to all the people we may have disturbed in my student days… but at least it was at holiday parks and not quiet residential streets where we ran amok!

  4. dw says:

    Where to start?

    That you let a holiday home to 8 language students and didn’t think it worthy of your noise patrol shows a lack of judgement.

    I can’t recall when I contacted you first, but know do know that other residents had been in touch over the course of the weekend and we’d heard nothing. We certainly never saw that noise patrol. I even went to the house itself to ask them to pipe down. But all that misses the main point.

    This was a new party house that you’d established. We didn’t know who to contact. It’s all very well to say we should have done this or that. But among our many talents here, telepathy is still lacking.

    How would we know who was in charge of the let? There is no sign on the building. There had been no letter informing us that the property was now a holiday let detailing the steps to take in the event of a problem. It was only that someone found the particulars for the property on your website that we made the link.

    And anyway, why should we be doing your job for you? This is about pro-activity. You expect us to come to you, call you up, let you know. But at no point have Brighton Holiday Homes done anything to make that easy. And still we as a community get nothing from this arrangement. Your holiday let offers our street no amenity, no benefit but it has provided a bundle of annoyace. It’s just not a very good deal.

    dw

  5. Just had another thought..you mention a problem with guests not being met at the property and you having to be a concierge. Guests are met at the property and are asked to call 20 minutes before arrival so that someone can meet them. Obviously we have to do this because with nearly 100 places we haven’t got the staff to be able to have someone waiting in a property for a guest to arrive.

    Very occasionally the guests forget to do this and have to wait for one of our team to arrive. What we can do is put a security key holder outside so the guests can let themselves in and then wait for someone to come and greet them. This would solve that problem.

  6. Sorry Dan. In our defence we were told it was eight mature language students, but you’re right it was an error of judgment. The house is set apart from the actual courtyard part of the mews and faces out into Lansdowne Place but we did misjudge it and we apologised for that at the time and changed it’s use to families/ corporate visitors. With regard to it being a holiday let and not adding to the community I suppose you need to talk to the owners. They have it as a holiday let because they use it themselves and do want to be part of the community when they are down. Seems unlikely now unfortunately.
    Many of the larger holiday lets we manage which are used for hen/stag parties were run down student houses/sharers houses or housing association houses before so residents actually prefer it. Also they know that if a guest is noisy we can do something about it and they are there for a short time and not months on end. With a noisy long term tenant the process of diary keeping and ASBOs is very long and drawn out. No excuses for upsetting you though. Talk to the owners if you and everyone else wants a long term tenant instead and see what they say.

  7. Pingback: Brighton holiday lets: thoughts on regulation and neighbourliness | Dan Wilson | Digital consultant, eBay expert, writer & blogger.

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