A healthcare professional’s bid to continue providing colleagues with a home from home sparked objections from neighbours who feared he was planning to operate a holiday let.
Pharmacist Dagmawi Orion Debench bought his new home on Craighall Drive, Musselburgh, in December and planned to carry on offering a spare room to fellow professionals, as he had in former homes, after moving in.
However, new legislation introduced by the Scottish Government requires anyone operating short term lets, including home-sharing, to apply for a licence.
When Mr Debench applied to East Lothian Council for a licence, six neighbours objected.
A meeting of the council’s licensing sub-committee last week heard the objections related to concerns about potential antisocial behaviour and the impact of a holiday let on a family-focused community as well as claims title deeds for the homes ruled out letting.
Mr Debench’s lawyer Lynn Simpson told the committee it was “unfortunate” that objectors appeared to misunderstand the difference between home-sharing and secondary letting.
She moved to reassure the committee that her client would still be living in the home, adding the practice of letting a room for a small fee to fellow professional was common in the healthcare world.
She said: “Mr Debench is a healthcare professional and has over the years opened up his homes to other healthcare professionals for short term accommodation in connection with their jobs.
“Those people are maybe called to the area to help deal with an urgent case or to deliver training, they do not always want to stay in a hotel.”
Ms Simpson said she had asked her client for examples of the types of guests he had at previous properties and told the committee: “One helpful example I will share is a guest who was one of the few surgeons in Scotland specialising in heart transplants and the nature of the work meant he was often called to hospitals around the country at very short notice.
“He would occasionally come and stay for four or five days at a time because the distance was too far for him to return to his own home.
“He preferred these types of home-sharing arrangements rather than staying in hotels to make sure he had a quiet place to rest after what, I am sure, is a very intense shift.”
She said the home-letting aspect of the licence was to cover if he was offering accommodation when away or on holiday.
She said: “I think there has been a misconception from the objectors about what we are seeking to do.
“The objections talk about HMO type properties or holiday lets with a stream of guests, that is not going to be an issue here. It is largely for home-sharing and occasional home-letting.”
No objectors attended the meeting and the committee approved the licence unanimously.