Put your home on the boards

Hiring your flat or house to the film or advertising world can bring in substantial amounts of money, but if you want the crew to leave their shoes outside the door then this show is not for you
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While admiring visitors do wonders for our style credentials, how much better if praise is followed by pounds. Owners of the kind of London home that catch the eye of the film and advertising world can find themselves on to a nice little earner. And if the property itself is not the star, then letting it to any of the production team is an attractive short-term arrangement.

While admiring visitors do wonders for our style credentials, how much better if praise is followed by pounds. Owners of the kind of London home that catch the eye of the film and advertising world can find themselves on to a nice little earner. And if the property itself is not the star, then letting it to any of the production team is an attractive short-term arrangement.

Mark Whiting fell into showbiz with his penthouse loft in Islington when a friend who managed a band used it for their album cover. The 24ft reception room, mezzanine conservatory with a suspended glass floor and, not least, the hot tub on the roof garden began to appear in commercials, magazines and books with regularity.

"I bought it as a shell from Manhattan Lofts two years ago and designed it to be flash," says Mr Whiting, an investment banker. "Nearly everything is stored in cupboards so it doesn't cause me any problems if it is used for a photo-shoot during the day. I get a good week's notice and they start after I have gone to work and are out by the evening. Only once did I let it out for a weekend's filming - that caused too much trouble, even though it was worth £2,000 a day. The place was a mess and the neighbours were up in arms." He is now selling the apartment in Nile street, N1, with plans to take on another project.

A high media profile is no bad thing, although according to Colette Barron of Amazing Space, which has a national location library, owners, rather like parents, always see their homes as star material. "Everything is vetted and apart from its aesthetic appeal you have to take into account the vital issue of parking. A still shoot can be done between 9am and 6pm with a handful of people, whereas a feature film will require a crew of about 50 or 60 plus vehicles."

The company specialises in commercial and industrial spaces or "beautiful houses in Holland Park", and was started during the recession when developers had empty apartments on their hands. "An owner can expect to get from about £600 to a maximum of £1,200 a day for a still shoot. A TV drama will bring in between £1,200 to £1,500 and a feature film up to £3,000 a day," says Ms Barron.

Over the past few years, film companies have been abandoning hotel rooms for their production teams in favour of rented accommodation. In common with many large companies, they prefer to provide key people with more space and a home from home. Profiting from this in particular are owners on holiday or working abroad, whose property would have otherwise remained empty.

Production co-ordinator Isobel Thomas says employers can save as much as £500 a week by renting property. Most in demand are areas of west London, notably Notting Hill, Kensington and Belsize Park, which are within easy reach of Shepperton, Pinewood and Elstree studios.

It is not only the property that must make the grade, but the landlord's agent. "The management service must be geared up for short lets. If a pigeon is nesting outside someone's bedroom, I have to be sure it will be dealt with immediately before it becomes a grievance. And it helps enormously if the gas, electricity and telephone have been sorted out."

Foxtons, the estate agents, now has dedicated short-let departments at five of its 10 offices. They provide tailor-made, short-term tenancies in private rented accommodation. Arnaud Cheung , short lets general manager, says rents are between 25 per cent and 50 per cent more than is usual. "We aim to get to 75 per cent occupancy. So if someone is away for three months it is a bonus, given that it would probably remain unoccupied since the owner could not commit to a six-month or one-year agreement."

At Foxton's Kensington office, Tim Hassell, who spotted the need for short lets in the film and television business while in Notting Hill, says there used not to be enough stylish properties to let. Now that has changed as more owners find their homes can earn them money without causing them inconvenience. A three bedroom apartment in Campden Hill Gardens, west London, was let to one of the Mummy II production team for £950 a week. Normally is would be let for between £650 and £700.

A number of agents, though, have pointed to potential risk in the short-term letting market. Their concern is that anyone paying less than £480 a week is automatically an assured shorthold tenant, and if he or she refuses to budge can stay for six months before being legally evicted. While most central London properties fall outside this category, landlords still cannot move tenants out the moment they are in breach of an agreement. Arriving home from the airport, bags in hand and children in tow, is not grounds for summary action.

However, Marveen Smith, a solicitor who specialises in the residential landlord and tenant market with the firm Dutton Gregory, near Southampton, says every landlord takes a risk, however small. "But there is no greater risk in short-term lets. Regardless of the tenancy granted by a landlord to a tenant, if the tenant refuses to leave when it comes to an end, the landlord would have to take legal action through the courts to regain possession of his property.

"What is important is the landlord has a good agreement, whether for two days of filming or two months of a corporate let. Given that many are tenants from overseas, there should be a large cash deposit and all rent paid in advance. Rent should include gas and electricity and the landlord must make sure that he is covered for use of the telephone, which could leave him with a enormous bill."

She also stresses that if a tenant wishes to enter into a longer agreement, references must be taken out and rent paid in advance. "It is also impossible to enforce judgement in another country. Even where large corporations are involved, a landlord should insist on a large cash deposit to pay for any damage. No one can afford to take on a big company in the courts, and some people do not treat rented property as though it were their own."

In the case of film sets, the location manager is a crucial link between the owners and the film company. They will see that the letter of the contract is fulfilled and deal with any problems after the filming is completed.

But the warning from Katrina Fletcher, who runs a location business, is that even good money is not always enough. "If you are the kind of person who wants the crew to leave their shoes outside the door, it's not for you. A good reinstatement clause is crucial," she says.

* The Nile Street loft is on the market at £650,000 with Stirling Ackroyd, 020-7549 0606; Dutton Gregory, 02380 620211; Foxtons, 020-7449 6033

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