Thousands of Edinburgh flat lets could be illegal

Thousands of flats in Edinburgh being rented out on short-term deals may be breaking the law, new research indicates.

Thousands of flat rentals in Edinburgh could be illegal

Green MSP Andy Wightman has launched a campaign to tackle the growing problem in the capital and revealed that it currently takes the council up to a year to investigate complaints about the issue.

One elderly couple were left feeling “insecure” in their homes after facing 120 visitors a year in a neighbouring flat, while entire tenements blocks in the capital have become AirBnBs. The latest figures show there were at least 5,474 properties in the capital which were available for this type of let in September 2017.

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Mr Wightman said: “The rapid rise in short-term lets is starting to undermine the basic human right to housing.”

He added: “There is now a staggering number of residential homes that are effectively being marketed as hotels with no planning permission, no safety regulations and no regard to families living in close proximity to them.

“This adds further pressure on local housing markets, and deprives local councils of income from the non-domestic rates businesses are supposed to pay.”

A research paper compiled by the MSP examines options for regulation and legislation, including Scottish ministers stipulating that planning permission is required for short-term lets in residential property.

A further option is extending the current Landlord Registration scheme to owners of short-term rental properties, which would require them to pass a “fit and proper person” test.

But it also says that the local Edinburgh development plan states that “Developments, including change of use which would have a materially detrimental effect on the living conditions of nearby residents, will not be permitted.”

The briefing paper adds: “This suggests that most properties operating as short-term lets in Edinburgh are doing so without planning consent which means that the majority of properties being let in the city are doing so unlawfully.”

Mr Wightman has set up a campaign website and is encouraging people to come forward and share their experiences.

A Scottish Government spokesman said an expert advisory panel is currently looking into the issue and will examine the way other cities around the world. It is due to make recommendations to the Scottish Government by the end of the year. Edinburgh City Council is awaiting the findings before it acts.