Council to hold government talks on ‘draconian’ Airbnb cap plans

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The city council will open dialogue with the Scottish Government for permission to regulate Airbnb properties, but a short-term lets industry group labelled the proposals “completely disproportionate”.

The Association of Scotland’s Self Caterers (ASSC) has lambasted the city council’s ambition to regulate short-term lets with a licensing system, calling it “draconian”.

Plans to regulate Airbnb lets have been criticised. Picture: TSPL

Plans to regulate Airbnb lets have been criticised. Picture: TSPL

The council has outlined minimum standards they would expect from a licensing regime for short-term lets – if permission was granted by the Scottish Government.

A licence would be required for anyone either operating a property on a commercial or professional basis – or for at least 45 days a year. The licensing rules would ensure any owners or operators were “fit and proper” and that certain safety standards were met.

ASSC chief executive Fiona Campbell said: “We are profoundly concerned at the position taken in this report from City of Edinburgh Council. The analysis ignores key evidence on the short-term lettings market in Edinburgh and the proposed regulatory solutions are completely disproportionate to the problems raised.

“The ASSC believe that there is no evidence for the introduction of a draconian and restrictive licensing system. What is proposed in the council’s report amounts to a serious threat to the livelihoods of operators in Edinburgh and the Capital’s thriving tourist economy of which short-term lets form a crucial part.”

The council wants the ability to “control or otherwise cap the number of properties licensed across the local authority area or in specific areas of the local authority”.

The council will also set up a team to deal with complaints about short-term lets. Housing and economy convener, Cllr Kate Campbell, said: “We’re really concerned about homes being taken out of the market, house prices and rents being driven up, antisocial behaviour and the result that is having on communities.

“The decision to unanimously agree the recommendations from the Short Term Lets Working Group is a great result of effective collaborative working. We can now start a dialogue with the Scottish Government on approaches to licensing. They have already commissioned a report, which talks about working with us and other local authorities, to consider piloting regulatory solutions.”

Council leader Adam McVey said: “I think this has been a genuinely collaborative approach, not just between the political parties, but with the other stakeholders.

“I have been grateful for the engagement the Scottish Government has put into this.”

Opposition councillors raised questions over the evidence and justification for introducing a licensing system.

Conservative group leader, Cllr Iain Whyte, said: “It makes me wonder whether we’ve got to a stage where we have actually thought through what we would want to do if the Scottish Government gave us the power around this.

“While I am content that we go ahead with the recommendations to look at this, I think it would be useful to get a report back from officers to tell us what they feel would be the appropriate conditions we might want to look at”