Recommendations for Edinburgh

Balancing short-term letting with safe, peaceful and affordable homes.

The City of Edinburgh Council and the Scottish Government recognises the steep increase in the level of whole- property short-term letting in Edinburgh, particularly in shared tenement properties. We recognise the difference between people letting out their home to a group during the Festival or occasionally letting out a spare room; and the very different practice of converting homes into commercial lets with no host on-site and a rapid turnover of customers.

Edinburgh residents are concerned and disadvantaged by the extent of unlawful whole-property commercial short-term letting in our communities. Entire-property short-term letting is already subject to planning regulations and there is a clear presumption against this type of activity in tenements. However, only a small percentage of properties have applied for this authorisation. Investigating breaches of planning and enforcement action against unlawful businesses is expensive for the Council, and slow for the residents.

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The Recommendations
  1. A licensing system – We recommend a two-tier licensing system:
    1. First tier (Home sharing) – All owners can apply for this license to share their home. Most would be eligible assuming basic conditions are met, including health and safety, and a fit and proper owner. This permits reasonable room letting, and the entire property to be short-term let on four separate occasions, with no more than one let per month, and potentially supported by restrictions on a maximum number of days per year.
    1. Second tier (Commercial or more intensive letting) – Requires more stringent checks, and planning permission.
  2. A simple on-line system – Owners apply for this license by confirming simple health and safety checks, proof of relevant ownership and insurances.
  3. Platform and host accountability – It would be illegal for hosts, agencies or platforms to advertise without a valid license number. Large fines are imposed for breaches. Accountability is the key component of successful regulatory schemes.
  4. Planning permission – Owners who wish to let their property beyond the home sharing allowance must apply for planning permission for a change of use.
  5. Protect the housing stock, especially the small number of accessible and affordable homes – Edinburgh should reinstate HOU 6 from the 2010 City Plan which recognised the housing crisis and resisted the change of residences to other uses.
  6. #MaketheShift – Edinburgh should become a signatory to Cities for Adequate Housing: Municipalist Declaration for the Right to Housing and the Right to the City.                                                                                                           

The Benefits

  1. Tourists can check which properties are operating safely and lawfully. Ethical tourism is promoted, which balances the needs of residents and visitors.
  2. Neighbours can feel safe and relaxed in their homes. The short-term letting allowance is compatible with the extensive case law protecting neighbours’ rights.
  3. Home sharers can be confident that they are operating legally and are protected. A “revolving door” of lets is prevented, but homesharers can still maximise their income.
  4. Professional accommodation providers will not have to compete with unlawful businesses who are often able to offer lower prices by avoiding costs of compliance.
  5. Residents will not compete with investors to find homes. Only appropriate properties are used for short-term letting, protecting the peace and security for neighbours. Main door accessible homes are not incentivised for short-term letting investors.
  6. City of Edinburgh Council can identify unlawful activity with ease, collect relevant taxes and redirect funds currently being spent on temporary accommodation.