Edinburgh short-term lets: Owners protest outside Scottish Parliament, calling for pause on licensing scheme
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People who run self-catering flats and bed and breakfasts staged a protest outside the Scottish Parliament, claiming the message the government’s scheme sends to domestic and international visitors was: “Wish you weren’t here”. And they said if the government presses ahead with the October 1 deadline for licence applications, thousands of small tourism businesses will be forced to close in a matter of weeks.
That would dramatically reduce the affordable holiday options available to people in Scotland and those visiting from further afield, they added. Sheila Averbuch, who runs a self-catering business in Edinburgh with her husband Ralph, said the protesters supported regulation of the sector, but claimed what the government was doing was “decimating” it instead. And she said no-one was listening to their ideas about how to create a workable scheme.
She said: “We have a couple of flats in the Old Town and one in the New Town – they’re main door flats, so there’s no shared entrance. First, they say you must apply for a licence and then in the next breath they say you may not apply for a licence until you get retrospective planning permission for our self-catering business that you’ve run responsibly for many years. The Scottish Government says it's about health and safety but we already have to have things like an electricity certificate, clean water certificate.
"We want regulation. They've delayed this implementation for six months already, during which we gave them a load of ideas – they wouldn't even talk to us. They are not dealing with the small business owners who are suggesting ideas of how we can make this legislation work together.
"We want them to pause it and work with us. At the moment, it's so confusing, very expensive to apply for planning or licence, and most people are being confused – 98 per cent of applications for planning in Edinburgh have been refused."
And she said people who didn’t like short-term lets were organising objections to planning applications. “They’re organising on social media to say- 'This planning application has been submitted, who's going to object to it?' It feels like an assassination of our sector.”
Daniella Nolte said she had been told to shut down her self-catering property in Granton after a neighbour complained. “I told them I’m a conscientious operator, I vet my guests, I do everything I can not to disturb the neighbours, but I was told to close down my business. I appealed, but I didn’t feel they listened to my arguments.
“The argument was there were changes a few times a week and someone goes in and hoovers or cleans the property. There are no more guests than there would be staying in the property if it was tenanted, but apparently it’s different from a family living there – I argued it’s no different because they go in and shower, cook a meal, watch TV, sit together, then go out and explore the city and they spend a lot of money and support the Scottish economy.”
Ms Nolte, who also owns another property in the city and manages some others, said she employed three people but may now be driven out of business. She said: “It’s a real threat to my livelihood and my family’s income. My husband is also part of the business. We have to think now: what are we going to do? Are we going to leave Edinburgh? Are we going to take our kids out of school in order to continue what we love doing?”
Housing minister Paul McLennan said inside the Scottish Parliament that the licence deadline had already been extended by six months so operators had not had nearly two years to prepare for the new regulations. He said as of August 31, 6,323 licence applications had been received, just over half had already been issued with a licence and none had been refused.