Edinburgh Airbnb hosts using key-storing padlocks in city parks to avoid legal issues

Airbnb locks are now appearing on railings around Edinburgh. Pic: Lisa Ferguson
Airbnb locks are now appearing on railings around Edinburgh. Pic: Lisa Ferguson
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key-storing padlocks are being used by short-term renters to avoid legality issues with permanently attached key boxes.

Last month the Evening News reported that landlords who attached boxes for keys to short-term rentals could face legal action if they did not own the wall the boxes were fixed to.

The Capital has seen a sharp increase in the number of short-term lets, such as Airbnb, with growing concerns from residents that holiday rentals are damaging communities and worsening the housing crisis.

Padlocks secured to railings have been spotted at the Meadows, Broughton Road, Charlotte Square Gardens and near Leith Walk, among other places.

City centre’s Green councillor Claire Miller said: “The recent appearance of key boxes on public railings in parks and greenspaces is unwelcome. Owners should ensure they are removed before the council does it for them.

“There are situations where key boxes are useful: for example, where an elderly person might have different care staff visiting and it is hard to get to a door. However, as part of the Airbnb explosion, they are a very visual reminder of just how much housing we are losing into holiday rentals at a time when the city has an acute housing shortage.”

A council notice has been put up by some of the padlocks at the Meadows demanding they are removed. Perpetrators are warned they have until March 8 to remove the locks or they will be cut off.

A spokesperson for City of Edinburgh Council said: “Anyone attaching a key safe to council property without our permission should be aware it will be removed.”

Andy Wightman, Lothian Green MSP, has been vocal about his concerns regarding the perceived Airbnb crisis in Edinburgh and hopes his campaigning can help better regulate short-term letting.

Speaking about the number of key-holding padlocks appearing around the city, he said: “These padlocks are evidence of the growing prevalence of short-term lets in the city, a very prominent visual indicator of that growth.

“It may also be a reflection of the fact that people can do it in a very temporary way so that at very short notice they can be attaching keys and padlocks to railings for ad hoc letting.”

Cameron Rose, Conservative councillor for Southside/Newington, where a number of the padlocks have been spotted, said there needed to be alternative arrangements for letters to gain access to their keys.

He said: “It is a public park and the railings should not be used for that.

“For those who come to the city there has to be some other way of getting into their accommodation and that’s an opportunity to arrange that, but I don’t think this is the right solution.”

Estimates show that Edinburgh has around 9,000 Airbnb properties and saw a 43 per cent increase in the short-term lets from 2016-17.

Ex-Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale, Lothian MSP, has called on the Scottish Government to implement more regulation on short-term lets, arguing that they are “hollowing out” the city centre.