Airbnb (and short term lets more generally) continues to be a hot topic in Scotland.
New legislation to regulate them did emerge eventually, with local authorities now having a degree of control which was missing before. Whether the new powers are adequate is still a live issue.
The controversy in Scotland has two main strands. First is the impact of STLs in a tourist destination like Edinburgh. They can have a detrimental impact on other occupiers of apartment buildings, and they contribute to a shortage of housing available for longer term rent. In turn, that shortage creates rent inflation in the normal market.
It is more complex than that of course, but those are the key issues.
The second impact is in the Highlands and Islands, where homes are bought up for the holiday rental market and this reduces the stock of housing available for locals to rent. It also creates price inflation in the purchase/sale market, and prices local people out of the market.
Urban myth tells of STL owners complaining they cannot find local people to service their properties, conveniently ignoring the part they have played in their own misfortune.
I have used Airbnb properties regularly in the last 10 years, usually in a situation where I will be staying more than 2-3 nights and prefer a cottage or apartment to a hotel or bed and breakfast. I enjoy living a bit of local life, in a way that hotels do not offer – having breakfast in a local cafe for example, or buying it from the local bakery and taking it back to my place.
Certainly I am in favour of regulation of the sector. Self regulation is a recipe for disaster. It is a misnomer of course. It means letting landlords do whatever they wish.
As for the problems these businesses create in local communities, my last Airbnb was a typical example of a business which causes no obvious detriment. It was a 1 bedroom cottage created by converting farm outbuildings – the farm being immediately adjacent. It has not removed any home from what is available for housing for local people. It has no impact on the neighbouring properties.
I have stayed in several properties like this in Scotland.
By contrast, the apartment I had in Rīga in June was in an inner city 100 year old apartment building. Each floor has 3 apartments on it. The other occupants of the building will have different neighbours every week or every few days. Some may be anti-social, no matter how much care the property owner takes to ensure compliance with house rules.
I do feel a bit awkward when I meet neighbours in apartment buildings, but all I can do is be polite and be a good neighbour by following house rules. I have only had a neighbour complaint once, and that was about a blind flapping in the breeze and making a noise. I corrected the problem and apologised.
My day job entailed following the progress of the draft legislation in Scotland as it wound its way through the system. I am not convinced that the new legislation will be fit for purpose, but only time will tell.
ⓒ iain taylor, 2022