It seemed like the answer to every landlord’s prayers. Following a series of punitive government measures that felt like an assault the private rented sector, along came a shining white knight.
With online newbie Airbnb at the forefront of the charge, the latest fad in the world of property rental was “short-term lets” and there was no end of landlords clambering for a piece of the action.
With customers seemingly on tap, significantly higher rental yields promised and a glut of new ‘serviced accommodation’ management companies promising to take the strain, it seemed there was no downside.
Except that there was, and last week the Scottish Government appeared to hammer the final nail in the coffin of an industry that long ago tipped into the realm of public nuisance.
New measures proposed by Holyrood will give local authorities new powers to tackle problems caused by the rapid growth of Airbnb-style holiday lets in recent years.
From 2021, councils will be able to establish designated areas where planning permission is required before properties can be rented out. The scheme will also set safety requirements for all short-term lets and other measures will be introduced to police littering and overcrowding.
And it wouldn’t be a government initiative if there wasn’t some form of taxation in the pipeline. From next year, short-term lets will be expected to make an “appropriate contribution to local communities and support local services” in addition to a slated tourism tax that will mainly affect landlords in Edinburgh.
The crackdown follows complaints from residents that the growth of short-term lets is pushing up rents, as well as contributing to littering, noise and anti-social behaviour.
Scottish government research found a 300% rise in short-term lets since 2016, with 32,000 recorded in May of last year.
Most of the 1,000 people who responded to a consultation on the issue backed the introduction of reforms, although they were divided over what should be done.
Those who took time to study existing regulations in Glasgow knew that it’s been forbidden to rent out an entire flat for short-term lets, including Airbnb, in a close with a communal entrance, since March 2017.
An individual room can be rented out if the owner remains living in the property. Otherwise change of use planning permission is required and this may be refused, particularly in areas where there’s a high density of rented flats, such as Crosshill, Shawlands and Strathbungo.
Short-term lets have been a hit with budget-conscious travellers but they’re less popular among residents who find themselves constantly bumping into strangers in communal areas.
Glasgow was the first city to introduce stricter rules on short term lets but Edinburgh, which has become a honeypot for Airbnb travellers attracted by thousands of online adverts, has now followed suit.
Most landlords are responsible and law-abiding, and they knew instinctively that the short-term let bubble would burst, sooner or later. There was always a ‘too good to be true’ sense about the sector and that was reinforced by the growing number of voices of opposition.
Buy-to-let was and remains the responsible and sustainable option for private landlords, particularly in Glasgow where rental yields are among the highest in the UK.
For more information on properties available for sale and rent in your area call your local Scottish Property Centre branch or visit www.scottishpropertycentre.net