AirBnB proposes 90-day curb on Edinburgh lets - except during Festival

Local residents have complained about the effect that sites such as AirBnB are having on their communities.
Local residents have complained about the effect that sites such as AirBnB are having on their communities.
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Short term letting hosts in Edinburgh would be restricted to renting out their properties for just 90 days a year - outwith peak festival periods - under proposals put forward by industry leader AirBnB.

The firm has laid out the recommendations it made to an expert panel created by the Scottish Government to consider policy changes affecting short-terms lettings in Scotland - suggesting a 90-day limit for landlords, but said the regulations should not include the peak periods during the Fringe in August and the Winter Festival period of December to January.

The report, which is to be published next week, is set to reveal proposals to shake up the short term letting industry amid complaints from residents in some areas who claim that the rise of rental flats let through companies such as AirBnB is ripping the heart out of their communities. It will also consider the future of other businesses which fall under the umbrella of the “collaborative economy” such as Uber.

Observers expect the report from the Scottish Expert Advisory Panel on the Collaborative Economy will recommend a restriction on the number of days that a property can be rented out without applying to the council for an official change of use to a holiday let, following in the footsteps of many other cities and countries across the world, including Amsterdam and New York.

But AirBnB, which claims that the average Scottish host lets their home for just 38 days a year, said last night that it wanted to make proposals to reflect the “unique balance” to be struck in Edinburgh city centre between accommodating tourists at peak times of year and eliminating unauthorised commercial operators.

It said, however, that it believed a 90-day restriction should operate only outside of the Edinburgh Fringe and “festive periods”, while it also said it wanted to see the government introduce a “robust reporting process” for Airbnb and other online platforms.

Campaigners warned that AirBnB’s proposals did not tackle the problem.

Green MSP Andy Wightman, who has campaigned on behalf of constituents, said: “AirBnB are very welcome to put forward ideas about how their own operation might be reformed to assist us in regulating short-term lets. There is a risk, however, of confusing two very different issues. The first is the rules around people sharing their own main home as part of the collaborative economy. The second is the conversion of homes into commercial short term letting operations.

“If AirBnB are willing to help limit the abuse of their online operation by commercial letting operators, that is welcome, but by itself would not solve the problem.”

AirBnB was initially set up as a pioneer of the so-called “sharing economy”, allowing people to rent out a spare room in their home, or the entire property, if they were away for a short period.

However, in recent years, professional landlords have increasingly become involved in the business, renting out multiple properties on a year-round basis.

An Airbnb spokesman said: “We always welcome discussions on clear home sharing rules and are pleased that Scotland is taking steps to support local families.”

The government last year commissioned the panel to provide advice, expertise and experience for policy development on the collaborative economy and make recommendations to Scottish Ministers. Panel members included representatives from Airbnb and Uber, as well as VisitScotland and digital skills body ScotlandIS.

A Scottish Government spokesman said that economy secretary Keith Brown met with Panel Chair Helen Goulden this week to discuss the paper. He said: “Ministers have received the findings of the Scottish Expert Advisory Panel on the Collaborative Economy and are currently considering their recommendations.”