Council plans crackdown on short term lettings sector
Many residential blocks are plagued by transitory visitors
Councillors in Edinburgh are keen to progress plans to tackle short-term lettings in response to rising complaints of anti-social behaviour and disruption to local communities.
The council has spent months considering how to deal with the issue and wants to create a “control area” where property owners must acquire planning permission to run a short-term let.
There has been a significant rise in such lets in Edinburgh – particularly through the Airbnb platform – in the last five years with many properties being used not only for tourists and commercial visitors, but also for stag and hen parties which often leads to long and noisy partying.
Some landlords have created business ventures around such events, promoting their properties through short term letting agencies.
Campaigners calling for greater control on short term lets say they have also had a serious impact on housing availability for local people looking to rent a home.
The problem is nationwide but more than a third of Scotland’s short-term let properties are believed to be in the capital, according to City of Edinburgh Council, because of its status as a tourist and party town.
Residents in some parts of the Old Town complain that short term letting has changed their neighbourhood, while some B&B and hotel operators say many STL operators do not face the sort of regulations and costs that apply to other accommodation suppliers.
At a meeting of the council’s planning committee today councillors voted to launch a consultation, before a final proposal is sent to Scottish Government ministers.
Under the proposals, council officers and councillors would determine whether a short-term let was suitable, based on density, residential amenity and housing shortages in the area.
The control area would be city-wide rather than being focused on the city centre and Leith, which hosts the majority of short-term lets, because of fears this would lead to a high concentration of lets in neighbouring areas.
If a home has been continually used as a short-term let for more than 10 years before a control area is designated and no enforcement action has been taken during that time, planning permission would not be required.
Renting out a room in someone’s own main residence house or letting the property whilst on holiday would also still be allowed.
Councillors voted to launch a consultation with the city’s residents at a meeting of the council’s planning committee. A final proposal will be sent to the Scottish government after the results of the consultation.
Campaign organisation PLACE, a network of Edinburgh residents fighting against short-term lets, said the lets often led to rent increases as well as disturbance from noisy parties, verbal abuse and damage to property.
“Alcohol is a regular contributing factor which makes these situations particularly unpredictable and intimidating to deal with,” said a spokesman.
The Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers said the council had not provided evidence to back up their claims and said short term letting was a big revenue earner for the economy.
The organisation’s chief executive Fiona Campbell said: “Edinburgh Council’s draft proposals for a short-term let control zone covering the entire city are wholly disproportionate and lack an empirical evidence base to substantiate claims that such accommodation has reduced housing stock.
“Furthermore, their proposals appear to rely on pre-pandemic listings from one online platform only and this does not provide an accurate reflection of the situation.
“Self-catering properties have been a longstanding presence in the capital for decades, enhancing the tourist offering and boosting the local economy, and should not be used as a convenient scapegoat for policy failures elsewhere.
“Communities are being hoodwinked into believing that regulating short-term lets out of existence will act as a panacea when in reality, we have failed to build enough affordable homes or bring large numbers of empty properties back into use.
“Last year, self-catering generated £50m for Edinburgh’s economy. For a city that is renowned for its hospitality, it is very disappointing that local policymakers are looking to solve multifaceted housing challenges in Edinburgh by concentrating on tourist accommodation and damaging small businesses in the process.
“The ASSC looks forward to supplying evidence to the upcoming consultation by the Council and highlighting the need for balanced, targeted and proportionate regulation for the benefit of all concerned stakeholders in the city.”