Strict conditions on short-term lets driving landlords underground - Susan Dalgety

New planning permission and licensing rules has seen the number of short-term stays advertised on Airbnb drop by 44 per cent since 2019New planning permission and licensing rules has seen the number of short-term stays advertised on Airbnb drop by 44 per cent since 2019
New planning permission and licensing rules has seen the number of short-term stays advertised on Airbnb drop by 44 per cent since 2019
When I think of a “black market” I have a vision of seedy blokes selling contraband cigarettes in backstreet pubs or van-loads of cheap booze.

I definitely do not think of luxury holiday apartments on the Royal Mile or in the New Town, but it seems there is now a black market in holiday rentals in cities like New York, Barcelona and yes, Edinburgh.

As city authorities impose stricter conditions on private short-term lets, so some owners have gone underground, listing their properties on Facebook instead of booking platforms. Apparently the number of New York hosts on sites like Airbnb plummeted after new rules were introduced forcing property owners to register with the mayor’s office. And even if they get a licence to rent their apartment, they have to be present at the property for the duration of their guest’s stay. Little wonder the number of New York short-stay rentals available on “official” sites plummeted from 22,000 in August last year to only 4,000 now.

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The same is happening in Edinburgh. New planning permission and licensing rules have seen the number of short-term stays advertised on Airbnb drop by 44 per cent since 2019. Yet a quick trawl on Facebook reveals a glut of properties for short term rent, from a bedroom that comes complete with a “very cute cat” to large family homes available for the duration of the Edinburgh Festival.

Fiona Campbell, chief executive of the Association of Scottish Self-Caterers (ASSC), describes evidence of a burgeoning black market in the Capital as “very disturbing”. She said: “This undermines the entire purpose of licensing and is yet another example of an own goal by policymakers.”

Spend any time in Edinburgh’s city centre and it is clear that the city’s appeal to visitors from the rest of the UK, and much further afield, continues to grow, and little wonder. It is a gorgeous city to visit, with fantastic restaurants and shops and so much history and culture to enjoy. But tourists need safe places to stay, and short-stay landlords require a licensing system that works for them, as well as for their guests. It is very worrying if recent rule changes mean that this vital holiday service is going underground, where it cannot be properly monitored.