Edinburgh protest: Residents gather in city centre to demand action on ‘irresponsible’ short term lets

Tenants’ union Living Rent held a protest on Victoria Street in Edinburgh city centre
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Edinburgh residents gathered in the city centre to demand action on ‘irresponsible’ short term lets (STLs) in the Capital.

Members of Living Rent tenants’ union unfurled a banner on Victoria Street on Saturday (July 29) that read ‘homes not holiday lets’, whilst calling on the council to commit to going ahead with their guidance on STLs and regulating short term lets in the city.

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Living Rent is calling for the council to keep its commitment to regulating the short term let industry and urge the council to bring in their guidance on STLs.

Edinburgh residents gathered in the city centre to demand action on ‘irresponsible’ short term lets (STLs) in the Capital.Edinburgh residents gathered in the city centre to demand action on ‘irresponsible’ short term lets (STLs) in the Capital.
Edinburgh residents gathered in the city centre to demand action on ‘irresponsible’ short term lets (STLs) in the Capital.

The council’s guidance on STLs was passed by a unanimous vote at Edinburgh City Chambers, and made it more difficult for short term lets to be granted planning permission, particularly in shared stairwells, in larger properties, in quieter and residential areas, and in properties with a shared garden.

However, in June, the council’s short term let licensing guidance was in part declared “unlawful” by the Edinburgh Court of Session after short term let operators raised £300,000 to challenge the guidance.

Critics of this ruling point out that the guidance went through two consultations before it was brought forward, during which 88% of respondents were in favour of better regulation. It is unclear what will happen to the guidance now.

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Living Rent says that the guidance needs to be implemented in order to better regulate the short term let market and bring STLs into the private sector due to the serious shortage of homes that the city is facing. Recent research by Admiral suggests that there are 278 renters per 100 rentals in Edinburgh at the moment.

With Edinburgh gearing up to welcome some 400,000 visitors to the Fringe in August, the tenants’ union says that the city is in desperate need of better short term let regulation to ensure that residents are able to find places to live.

Eilidh Keay, Living Rent member says: “Edinburgh is in the midst of a disastrous housing crisis, and the uncontrolled explosion in short-term lets over the last ten years has only made it worse. But Edinburgh is a real city, with real residents – not some tourist resort.

“And it is vital that the council recognise that by bringing in their guidance on short term lets. It should not be that a few landlords with deep pockets are able to hold a city council to ransom.

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“We have put up this banner today to highlight the frustration that Edinburgh residents are feeling over the inaction on short term lets and call for the council to do the right thing and bring in their planning guidance. This city needs clear firm guidance to ensure that residents have somewhere to live and are not forced out of the city they call home.”

Maxwell Scott-Slade, a resident in Edinburgh added: "I live in the Old town, near Canongate in Edinburgh. My flat is in a communal stairwell and I don’t know my neighbours because they change every week. This constant change has completely eroded the community where I live. When I have challenged the landlords directly who operate the short term lets, they have become verbally aggressive and have sent me threatening notes through my door and emails to my inbox.

“These landlords are using short term lets as a way to skirt the rules associated with properly maintaining their properties and avoiding paying fees that the council could use to better spend on important city improvements.

“Any long term tenants that do exist are at risk of getting evicted without notice just before the festival. This happened last year when we just started to cultivate a relationship with our longer term neighbour. She contacted me via instagram to say she was moved out because the landlord was selling the flat. The flat in question has become a short term let ever since, there was never any intention to sell it. I lost my only neighbour to another short term let.

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“I love where I live and I love the city of Edinburgh, but it’s plain to see that a privileged few have found a way to maximise their income at the cost of the people who really live in the city and it has a profound negative impact on so many aspects of living here.

“Edinburgh council should follow through with their short term restrictions to the fullest degree and not be influenced by a powerful few who choose to abuse their power to extract the vibrancy from this amazing city just to fill their pockets."

Elise Corry, tenant in Edinburgh said: “One out of three flats in my tenement used to be a short term let, in which stag dos and loud holiday makers used to cause havoc for the permanent residents. Whether it was waking us up at night by mistakenly knocking on other flats’ doors or playing loud music, these temporary residents were equally difficult to hold accountable as they were here one week, gone the next.

“One neighbour, a doctor, was constantly awoken by the noise, which equally disturbed his dogs, and his long working hours the following day left him utterly exhausted. This is the reality of the Council’s hands off approach to the regulation of STLs.”

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