An Edinburgh Airbnb owner has been ordered to “cease advertising the property and to cancel any bookings” by the Scottish Government following noise complaints from a “disgruntled neighbour”.
An enforcement notice served to Mohamed Shoaira by the City of Edinburgh Council over an alleged breach of planning controls was upheld by a Scottish Government reporter after an appeal was launched against the decision.
It comes amid a council crackdown on holiday rentals across the city, with nine short-term lets (STLs) on the same street refused permission to operate in just the last week.
City planning officers discovered the four-bedroom property on Albion Road was listed on Airbnb as a ‘Central Townhouse by Calton Hill’ accommodating up to 10 guests for a minimum of two nights at a time, which they said constituted a ‘material change of use’.
They said use of the house as an STL “could potentially result in approximately 180 changeovers in a year” and argued this is highly disruptive to neighbours.
Officers added there were “several calls to the police regarding noise and disturbance issues from the property” between 2019 and 2021.
A document submitted to the Scottish Government from QB Wood architects on behalf of Mr Shoaira said the noise complaints were raised “shortly after the appellant had a disagreement with a neighbour about a separate matter”.
It added: “The neighbour involved the authorities; however, the incident was not pursued further by the authorities. Since this incident, a complaint has been made regarding this property which has led to the enforcement notice.”
It was also stated the property accommodates “a max of 8 occupants at one time” and is only used for short-term letting for around half of each month.
And Mr Shoaira disputed accusations that use of the property as an STL was causing disturbances to surrounding residents.
“All guests staying are told to be respectful of the neighbours,” the architect wrote on his behalf. “The house has its own entrance and exit therefore does not disturb the neighbours upon entry. The only neighbours are via the separating walls, there are no neighbours above or below, again this minimises disturbances.”
QB Wood also said that at the time of starting to use the property as an STL in 2015, their client “was not aware that planning permission was required”.
But the Scottish Government dismissed the appeal and told Mr Shoaira to “cease advertising the property and to cancel any bookings”.
Under current planning regulations, not all STLs require planning permission to operate, however the council does not allow rentals that result in a “materially detrimental effect on the living conditions of nearby residents”.
Edinburgh is set to become Scotland’s first short-term rental control zone, with new powers waiting to be signed off by Scottish ministers, which will require any STL property operating for less than 10 years and not in use as a permanent residence to have planning permission in place.
It’s hoped this could see thousands of properties currently being rented out on sites like Airbnb for short-term letting purposes returned to residential use.
Ahead of the implementation of the new regulations, applications for hundreds of properties across the city have been submitted to the council seeking change of use from residential to short-term let.
Amid concerns the local authority does not have sufficient resources to handle planning applications for the estimated 10,000 short-term lets in Edinburgh in the coming months, Edinburgh City Council said it has ring-fenced £150,000 to “help us establish and manage Edinburgh’s new short term let controls”.
“We are seeing high numbers of planning applications and officers will handle these in the usual way, on a case by case basis.”
Decisions issued recently suggest the council is taking a hard line against multiple STLs with common stairs; in the last week retrospective permission has been refused for nine flats split between two blocks on Canning Street Lane in the West End, where some residents have complained to the council about noise disturbances and anti-social behaviour associated with the rentals.
One wrote that “late night partying” had become part of a “difficult situation for residents”.
Meanwhile, Edinburgh City Council is consulting on plans to introduce a licensing scheme for holiday rentals.
Under legislation passed by the Government, STL operators across Scotland will have to apply for a license from local authorities by April 2023 – and having a change of use granted by the council will be one of the key conditions.
The consultation is gathering Edinburgh resident’s views on the new scheme until June 10.