Crackdown on Airbnb-style lets to be introduced

The Scottish Government will be cracking down on Airbnb-style short-term lets with a new licensing regime due to be implemented before next summer.

Crackdown on Airbnb-style lets to be introduced

MSPs had put plans to introduce restrictions on short-term lets on hold amid the coronavirus pandemic, along with a raft of other legislation that will not see the light of day before next year’s Holyrood election.

However, housing minister Kevin Stewart has now said he will fast-track handing new powers over to councils in the next few months with the intention that the new regulations are in place before Holyrood is dissolved for next year’s poll.

While the new licensing rules, which could include local authorities being given the power to set up “short-term let control areas” under planning regulations, will be welcomed by authorities in the capital, tourism chiefs in Skye, which has an even higher concentration of the short-term lets, has warned businesses do not want “an additional administrative burden for next season”.

Evidence has suggested that the dramatic increase in short-term lets has contributed to a housing crisis in Edinburgh. Over the years, the city has seen a significant fall in homes available for rent whilst the number of Airbnb listings has risen. In the city centre, more housing stock is now available for short term lets than for traditional private rented homes.

A report has also suggested only one in 500 Airbnb listings in Edinburgh have planning permission, The Herald reports. 

Edinburgh councillors had urged short-term let owners to hand over their properties to help shelter the city’s homeless population during the COVID-19 lockdown, but a licensing regime being introduced could lead to Airbnb rentals being banned in tenement flats with shared stairs.

Concerns have been raised over the restart of the short-term lets industry in Edinburgh from July 15, when restrictions were lifted for the tourism industry.

Residents and campaigners had pleaded for short-term lets to remain closed with the virus still a threat to public health, but Mr Stewart warned there were “no grounds for delaying the re-opening of self-catering accommodation with shared facilities”.

He said: “I understand the concerns of Edinburgh residents in tenements, and others with shared facilities, but we have to be guided by the medical and scientific advice.”

In a letter to Holyrood’s Local Government Committee, Mr Stewart has confirmed that “having paused work on the regulation of short-term lets to deal with the pandemic, we have now resumed our work”.

He said: “We aim to lay the regulations giving local authorities powers to license short-term lets and introduce control areas in December so they can be in force by spring 2021. As part of preparation to do this, we will be engaging stakeholders on our detailed proposals in autumn.

“The delay caused by COVID-19 necessitates this will be a shorter period of engagement than originally planned but we will make sure the process is effective in refining our proposals and finalising the statutory instruments.”

Kate Campbell, Edinburgh City Council’s housing convener, commented: “We’ve identified that licensing is the best route for us to be able to properly control short term lets and prevent the negative impacts that they have had on our city and our residents.

“We’ll continue to take action through planning, addressing anti-social behaviour and, frankly, any route open to us, but we know the game changer for Edinburgh will be a licensing regime. So we’re delighted this work is progressing at the Scottish Parliament and we will get the powers we need to protect homes and communities.”

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