How Edinburgh City Council is harnessing powers in a bid to regulate Airbnb

04 September 2018 by
How Edinburgh City Council is harnessing powers in a bid to regulate Airbnb

Edinburgh City Council has formed a cross-department committee to harness existing powers in a bid to tackle the prevalence of short-term lets in the capital.

The authority has said there are more than 9,000 city properties advertised on Airbnb, with more available across rival platforms.

New licensing powers are being sought to regulate the sector, but require legislation from the Scottish government. While this is considered, Edinburgh City Council has formed a team to use powers across planning, anti-social behaviour, environmental health, trading standards and waste collection to address concerns.

The powers could require an ‘operator' to seek planning permission to change the use of a property to short-term commercial visitor accommodation or to be subject environmental health, trading standards and waste removal rules, if it is considered the accommodation is being let in the course of business.

The team can also harness powers under the Anti-social Behaviour Notices (Houses Used for Holiday Purposes) (Scotland) Order 2011, which allows it to place a notice on a landlord following two or more cases of anti-social behaviour at a property.

The team will prioritise short-term lets believed to be operating as commercial enterprises, following reports from Airbnb that 21% of properties listed in the city are active for more than 90 days a year.

A council report reads: "Such powers will not address all the issues presently encountered but by prioritising responses to enforcement enquiries and seeking imaginative use of the available powers a difference may be made."

Complaints about the prevalence of short-term lets have included the impact on housing supply, the erosion of communities, the unsuitability of tenement houses, safety concerns, noise, anti-social behaviour and concerns rates and rents are not being paid.

In the long-term Edinburgh Council has called on the Scottish government to introduce licensing legislation or change planning classifications.

Councillors have said any licensing changes should allow authorities to impose a cap on the total number of properties used for short-term lets or the total number of days any individual property can be let.

A spokesperson for the Scottish government said: "We are committed to a range of actions, including establishing a delivery group which will look at the issues around short-term lets, identify the existing powers local authorities have and whether further measures are required, and explore ways of piloting solutions."

Airbnb has met with Edinburgh City Council to discuss measures that could be taken. The Caterer has contacted the booking platform for comment.

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