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Call for Airbnb short term lettings to be restricted in Scotland

07-Feb-2018


PropGo Luxury

Proposals have been put to the Scottish Government to restrict short term lettings using websites such as Airbnb to just 90 days a year.

Concerns are growing that in places like Edinburgh, where there is a severe lack of accommodation during the popular festival periods, houses are being bought by people who have no intention of living in them and are effectively cashing in on the tourism boom.

An expert panel set up by the Scottish Government has called for short term lettings to be restricted to just 90 days and exceeding the limit should require a change of use permission and landlords should also pay business rates if they exceed the limit.

The panel, made up of representatives from Airbnb and tourism body VisitScotland as well as others, also says that the 90 days should be in addition to peak festival periods.

It is well documented that Edinburgh does not have enough hotel rooms to meet demand at peak tourism times. Data from VisitScotland shows that 23% of all tourist visitors to Scotland stay in self-catering accommodation accounting for 3.4 million nights per year. These figures are exclusive of accommodation booked through platforms like Airbnb. VisitScotland indicated that Airbnb accounted for 5% of all tourist accommodation in 2016.

Figures from Airbnb show that as of July 2017 there were 21,900 Airbnb hosts in Scotland of which 9,000 or 41% were in Edinburgh. On average, Scottish hosts earn £3,600 a year via the platform with guests staying an average of three nights.

The figure also show that there were 802,000 total guests in Scotland of which 411,000 or 51% in Edinburgh with over 70,000 during the festival period in August.

‘There is clearly a delicate balance to strike in preserving the fabric of communities and accommodating tourists who are attracted to major city centres in Scotland,’ the panel’s report states.

‘We do not wish to see the hollowing out of communities in cities, or a growing rise in aggression towards tourists, as has been seen in some other popular European cities like Barcelona,’ it adds.

Last week Greens housing spokesman Andy Wightman MSP, who has campaigned on behalf of constituents, said ordinary people renting out a room in their own house using a traditional Airbnb model should not be hampered.

It is the activities of professional landlords that need to be examined. ‘We’re concerned with the conversion of whole residencies to commercial short term letting, so having a blanket restriction is in my view not very sensible,’ Wightman explained.

‘They [Airbnb] are being used as a route to market by commercial operators who see it as a very cheap way of advertising the availability of a flat, which is used 100% of the year for commercial short term letting. If Airbnb had a 90 day policy that would cut them out,’ he added.

People who make money from short term accommodation rental platforms are able to earn up to £7,500 tax free by renting out a spare room in their house under the rent a room allowance.


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