Edinburgh’s housing crisis: Student flat received 626 inquiries in 1 week

Bosses at one of the Capital’s leading letting agents have warned that lack of clarity over Covid-19 government restrictions have caused significant changes in Edinburgh’s rental marketplace, leaving thousands of tenants scrambling to find accommodation.

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Overburdened with inquiries, Edinburgh-based letting agent Umega has been forced to take properties off the market to try and reduce the volume of requests.

In August alone, the letting agent received 11,300 tenancy applications for their 170 available properties, with one flat receiving 626 enquiries in the space of a single week.

A queue of over 30 people spotted waiting to view a Morningside Road flat this month

Terrified about being left without somewhere to stay, tenants have offered to pay hundreds of pounds over the asking price to secure a short term let.

One individual attempted to secure a tenancy agreement by offering to pay £2800 per month for a two-bedroom property advertised at £1800 per month.

Queues of over 30 people, desperate to secure a tenancy agreement, have been spotted outside a flat for rent on Morningside Road.

Director of Umega, Andy Whitmey said his agency was “overwhelmed” by the demand.

Councillor Kate Campbell, Convener of the Housing, Homelessness and Fair Work committee

“The rental market in Edinburgh is very challenging at the moment,” said Mr Whitmey.

“In August we had 11,300 tenant enquiries for our massively depleted list of available properties and one flat had 626 enquiries in a week.

“We put an HMO property on the market last week and had to take it down after two hours as we were overwhelmed by the amount of enquiries we were getting.

“In September we advertised a apartment at £1,800 a month and quickly received an application from a student looking to pay £2,800 a month to secure it; £1,000 more than the asking rent.”

Covid-19 restrictions are compounding the problem

While housing was a problem in the Capital prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, Mr Whitmey said issues have been compounded by government restrictions imposed over the last 19-months.

Uncertainty surrounding government restrictions put many off securing a place to live earlier this year, leading to a “scramble” to find flats this month.

Students who are returning to the city after it was announced that university face-to-face teaching will resume are struggling to secure accommodation.

Mr Whitmey said: “Normally students are pretty organised, lining up their accomodation around Spring for the following year.

"However this year with so much uncertainty about travel and teaching restrictions it's been a last minute scramble to find somewhere to live.”

Students are not the only group impacted by changes in the short-term rental market.

Mr Whitmey added: “This massive surge in demand has rippled throughout the whole rental sector, making life difficult for students and professionals as decent homes for let are a scarcity.”

Enormous pressure on housing in Edinburgh

Edinburgh City Council’s housing, homelessness and fair work convenor, Councillor Kate Campbell said there is “enormous pressure” on housing and it is hard for anyone looking for a private tenancy.

She said: “One factor is loss of homes to use as short term lets and we’re in the process of consulting on our proposal for Edinburgh to be a short term let control area.”

A spokesman for Edinburgh University said the institution is working closely with student services to provide advice and guidance to students seeking private accommodation.

The spokesperson added: “We have provided rooms for over 9,500 students in accommodation this year."

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