Landlord slapped with £7,500 fine over 'sham' holiday let for Warriston flat
A landlord has been slapped with a £7,500 fine after he flouted tenancy laws by claiming a Warriston flat was a holiday let.
Alexander Forsyth advertised the five-bedroom property to students and then failed to protect tenants’ deposits in an approved third-party scheme.
“This case is an important victory for tenants and sets a clear precedent: landlords cannot simply pick and choose which laws apply to them,” said Gordon Maloney, who led the case for tenants group Living Rent.
“And no amount of coercing tenants into signing sham leases can change that.”
Under normal leases, landlords are required by law to protect deposits in a third-party scheme.
Tribunal members threw out Mr Forsyth’s claims the lease was a holiday-let and so exempt after hearing his tenants were a mix of students and young professionals
“We know there are other landlords in Edinburgh doing the same thing, and this should be a warning to them that the gig is up,” said Mr Maloney.
“The whole case, however, underlines the urgent need for further regulation and clarity on holiday lets.
“People shouldn’t have to be experts on Scottish housing law in order to find somewhere safe to live, and it should not have required tenants to undertake ten months of legal action to get this verdict.
“If the government is serious about protecting tenants, they need to regulate and crack down on holiday lets now to avoid anything like this ever happening again.”
Living Rent published a report earlier in the year claiming that many landlords in Edinburgh are using ‘sham’ holiday let leases to avoid regulation and legal responsibilities.
Such leases fail to grant tenants the same protection from eviction or deposit deductions and are subject to lesser health and safety regulations, such as HMO licences.
No registration is required of holiday let landlords, meaning those those struck off the landlord register can continue to rent properties as holiday lets.
Mr Forsyth, who acted as landlord for the flat owned by an overseas aunt and uncle, claimed his actions were a “genuine mistake.”
Tribunal members found damage to the property, the extent of which was disputed by tenants, was irrelevant to their findings.
Mr Forsyth said his “countless offers” to resolve the dispute had been refused and claimed the tribunal failed to give him sufficient time to seek legal representation.
“I am not a professional landlord, have no legal interest in the property nor own any of my own, and was helping out with it in a purely informal capacity for relatives,” he added.
“Regrettably, the ambiguity surrounding holiday lets has resulted in a draconian judgement being made.”