OWNERS of short-term let flats could be facing legal action over the keyboxes they install outside properties for visitors to let themselves in.
Lothian Green MSP Andy Wightman claims most of the boxes which are proliferating in doorways across the Capital have probably been installed unlawfully, depending on who owns the wall they are attached to.
And he has published a research paper on residents’ rights in relation to the boxes.
Mr Wightman said he was not seeking to engineer conflict and he urged residents to seek their own legal advice before mounting any action.
But he said: “Given that people are annoyed about short-term lets and these are visible manifestations of that, I would anticipate people will challenge it.”
Mr Wightman has been a leading critic of the growth of Airbnb and other commercial short-term lets, arguing it fragments neighbourhoods, causes distress to residents and adds to the housing crisis.
He said the keybox arrangement - where an owner can text an access code to visitors, allowing them to unlock the box and obtain a set of keys for the property - meant the owner did not even have to meet the paying guests.
“Key safe boxes are not the most serious aspect of this. They are just another example of the general unlawfulness of this - so many short-term lets do not have planning consent, they do not have permission in their title conditions, their mortgage provider probably doesn’t consent to it, they don’t have fire, gas and safety checks.”
He acknowledged challenges over the keyboxes could make life more difficult for Airbnb hosts.
But he said: “I don’t apologise to anyone for insisting people obey the law and follow due process - especially when we’re talking about communal property, it’s really important people don’t go beyond what they’re legally entitled to do because there are impacts on other people.
“I don’t apologise for drawing attention to areas where the law could be breached and encouraging people to ensure the law is being followed.”
Airbnb said there were many different reasons why residents used lock boxes, including for health care, social care, tradesmen or relatives.
And the company said the vast majority of hosts on Airbnb were sharing space in their own home, with around half using the income to help them make ends meet.
“The demands of their working hours, travel, children, education etc can often mean that they need help in welcoming guests at a time to suit them- which lockboxes can help with. It doesn’t mean that they don’t live in the property themselves.”
Last summer, Airbnb published data claiming short-term rentals were now worth almost £240 million to Edinburgh. The report also said Airbnb hosts earned an average of £4300 a year from renting over 10,000 different properties to visitors.