Airbnb challenged to 'acknowledge the harm' on residents from short-term lets by Edinburgh campaign group

PLACEEdinburgh set out a list of questions in an open letter to Airbnb.

Wednesday, 8th January 2020, 12:00 pm
Updated Wednesday, 8th January 2020, 12:01 pm
A grassroots campaign group have sent an open letter to Airbnb (Photo: TSPL)

Grassroots campaigners against the growth of short-term lets in Edinburgh have challenged Airbnb to “acknowledge the harm” the holiday let website has on residents.

In an open letter to Airbnb, which hosts some of the highest numbers of short-term lets in the Capital, PLACE Edinburgh also challenged the company on facilitating activity which “appears to breaking the law”.

Airbnb said they had received the letter and would respond, and highlighted their backing of a tourist tax and measures against anti-social behaviour including a noise detector trial.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

A grassroots campaign group have sent an open letter to Airbnb (Photo: Shutterstock)

Short-term lets, where a property is let for short periods of time during the year rather than as part of longer-term tenancy, have been blamed for antisocial behaviour in some areas of Edinburgh, as well as pushing up house and rent prices in saturated parts of the city such as the Old Town.

The Evening News reported in August that there were as many as 7,000 full properties let out on Airbnb in Edinburgh, most of which are unlikely to have planning permission.

'Intimidating'

The letter highlights several issues including planning regulations in Edinburgh, as well as calling on Airbnb to offer similar commitments to other short-term let management services such as Nestify who have pledged not to advertise unauthorised short-term lets.

It also blasts the complaints system of the website, branding it “intimidating”.

The letter states: “Can you offer any comfort to neighbours of unauthorised short-term lets that neighbour complaints will result in these properties being removed from your site?

“We emphasise that the process of making complaints is hugely intimidating for neighbours, particularly when they relate to hosts who do not receive concerns constructively. It would be fair if neighbours understood, the specific circumstances that you would take action to remove such a business before making complaints which may only make a bad situation worse.”

The group also pressed Airbnb to inform hosts of planning regulations in Edinburgh as they do for Airbnb hosts in Glasgow.

In the letter, campaigners also asked: “Does Airbnb subscribe to Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, and acknowledge the harm to Edinburgh residents’ rights to peaceful and affordable homes?

“Does Airbnb recognise that a significant proportion, indeed perhaps the majority of the activity facilitated by your platform in Edinburgh appears to be breaking the law?”

However, planning regulation in Edinburgh is not clear and while several property owners have been told to stop operating as Airbnbs by Edinburgh City Council and the Scottish Government’s Reporter, some have also seen their appeals succeed.

The council is pushing for more power to regulate short-term lets in the Capital, with a potential licensing or registration scheme similar to the private landlord system in place for traditional lets being floated by lawmakers in Scotland.

An Airbnb spokesperson said: “While guests using Airbnb accounted for just three per cent of visitors to Scotland, the Airbnb community boosted the Scottish economy by over £693 million in 2018.

“We take the concerns of local communities seriously and welcome opportunities to enter dialogue to build trust. From supporting simple, fair and proportionate regulation to backing a local tourism levy, we have always been committed to working together with Edinburgh to make home sharing work for everyone.”