Scottish Government urged to keep tenement Airbnbs shut until October

Holiday flats with shared facilities including stairwells are illegal under the current Covid-19 regulations
AirBnB locks outside a block of flats in EdinburghAirBnB locks outside a block of flats in Edinburgh
AirBnB locks outside a block of flats in Edinburgh

A Lothian MSP and grassroots campaign group have called on Nicola Sturgeon to extend the ban on tenement holiday lets and Airbnbs beyond July 15.

Green MSP Andy Wightman and PLACEEdinburgh have both written to the Scottish Government asking for an extension to the ban, with Mr Wightman calling for a blanket ban until at least October.

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The government released updated guidance last week clarifying that holiday lets with shared facilities must stay closed, but there were more than 300 listings available for booking on Airbnb at the end of last week in Edinburgh.

In his letter, Mr Wightman welcomed the move to continue the ban on the properties, but said constituents were worried about the potential of them reopening on July 15 alongside the rest of the tourism industry.

He said: “In other words, my constituents have a two-week period of respite these short-term lets may once again be open for business.

“Many residents will still be shielding or vulnerable, and the return of holidaymakers to their buildings will cause them fear and anxiety.”

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Calling for an extension to the ban until September 30, Mr Wightman also asked the Scottish Government to publish the scientific advice around any decision.

He said: “If this [the extension to the ban] is not to happen, I would ask the Scottish Government publish very explicit and clear scientific advice on the matter prior to any opening, so that residents may see the basis upon which their lives are to be disturbed once again by mini-hotels operating in their residential stairs.”

In a separate letter to the Ms Sturgeon, the health secretary Jeane Freeman, and tourism minister Fergus Ewing, campaign group PLACEEdinburgh said the updated guidelines were a “substantial relief” but called for Airbnbs to stay shut “for the duration of the pandemic”.

It wrote: “Every month it is not uncommon that each short-term let brings ten or more groups (often not from the same household), plus the same number of cleaners, laundry staff and ‘hosts’ to the shared tenement.

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“There are multiple examples of hotel customers infecting other guests during pandemics due to contaminated corridors or stairs. It is difficult to see how the tenement environment differs greatly.

“Tenements are not well ventilated, and daily cleaning is likely to fall to the residents given the unsupervised nature and general experience of these short-term lets.”

The letter adds: “We congratulate the Scottish Government for taking difficult public health decisions to suppress the virus and break the chains of transmission. The strategy is working.

“We hope the Scottish Government will use the lived expertise of residents living in tenements with short-term lets, so we can work together to keep the virus at bay and protect our most at risk residents.”

The Scottish Government has been contacted for comment.