A STUDENT and her flatmates ended up being given rape alarms after going for advice on how to cope with the “party flat” above them in the Capital’s Lauriston Park.
Gemma Cartney said her flat was fine until a new owner bought the property above and began renting it for short-term lets.
Ms Cartney, 23, who was studying linguistics and English Language at the University of Edinburgh, said a series of stag parties gathered at the flat almost every weekend, making the students’ lives a nightmare.
But when they asked for help they were told they should move and given personal alarms.
“Everything was fine until a new person bought the flat above us,” she said.
“It has five bedrooms with five beds in each room and we ended up with around 40 middle-aged men holding stag parties nearly every weekend.
“The carpet was taken up and we had constant noise. There was broken glass in the stair, the front door lock got broken and we even had to fight off one man who tried to force his way into our flat.
“The police then said it was our fault for living there and we should move away.
“My flatmate went to talk to a councillor who said ‘you guys don’t have it so bad, one girl got raped in a stairwell.’
“We were so scared coming home we went to the university Advice Place for help. They gave us rape alarms.”
The students took their concerns to the MSP Andy Wightman who is currently working with the BBC Panorama investigations team to highlight the problem of short-term letting in Edinburgh.
Mr Wightman is calling for tighter council regulation of short-term lets.
“This problem has hit Edinburgh with a vengeance,” he said.
“We want the city centre of Edinburgh retained as a residential area. This is one of the reasons it got Unesco World Heritage Centre status.
“We believe if someone wants to start renting out a property this should be deemed as a ‘change of use’ by the council and they should have to apply to the council for permission. This could be refused or granted with conditions.”
He added: “It would mean the council would have a policy and each application would be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. It also opens the way for reviewing permission, say after five years.”
Residents could also object to the change of use.
Mr Wightman, a land rights campaigner, is appealing for people to come forward with their personal stories. Michael Allen director of BnBBuddy, a holiday lets management company, said he would welcome “intelligent regulation” by the council.
“We are willing to talk to the council and give advice and suggestions, including making sure everyone doing short-term lets has to sign up with an agent.
“Companies like ours can get a bad name because of a very small percentage of people doing it very badly.”
A council spokesman said: “We have written to the Scottish Government. They advised us they have a panel looking at it, which will make local authority recommendations.”