Short-term lets licence scheme may destroy business, says property owner

Business manager Karen Dirollo said she feared the proposals would be 'devastating' for the industry.

Scottish Government’s short-term lets licence scheme could destroy business, says property owner LDRS

A short-term let operator claimed the Scottish Government’s plans to introduce a licensing scheme for Airbnb style properties will “destroy” her business.

Karen Dirollo, who operates short-term let management firm, Property Shapers, said she feared the proposals would be “devastating” for the industry.

She was among those holding a rally outside the Scottish Parliament to demand the Scottish Government stalls plans due to come into force on October 1.

Property owners will have to apply for a licence by then if they wish to continue trading.

But there has been vocal opposition from the short-term lets sector.

Ms Dirollo said: “I think they’re going to push it through.

“For me, specifically, it would destroy my business.

“We understand what is expected but we just think it has been hammered through without any thought for us or for the economy or any thought for what’s going to happen to the festival next year.”

She said it would be a “massive struggle” for those involved in the summer festivals to obtain accommodation and would have a knock-on effect for other businesses.

Anna Morris from holiday let marketing firm, The Edinburgh Address, also attended the rally.

Ms Morris said: “It really is going to drive tourists away.

“People use self-catering for a very specific reason. It’s a different type of accommodation from hotels or apart-hotels.

“They often come with family, they want to be in different parts of the city.

“They just won’t come. People want good value accommodation.

“They won’t come because short-term lets won’t be available because they won’t be able to get a licence as they won’t get planning permission.

Ms Morris said a licensing scheme and regulation was a “great idea in theory”.

She added: “Health and safety is absolutely paramount. Owners who do self-catering should have all the health and safety.

“It’s deeply unfair and deeply unjust.”

Pressure from within the tourism industry to pause and re-think the scheme has grown over recent weeks as the October 1 deadline edges closer; last week a cross-party group of 37 MSPs joined calls, urging Humza Yousaf to announce another delay, however this was quickly ruled out by the First Minister.

Linda McDonald-Brown, who manages 15 STLs across Edinburgh and East Lothian through her business Edinburgh Concierge Company, said she hadn’t yet submitted licensing applications but would by the end of the month.

As of last week, only 278 had applied in Edinburgh.

Ms McDonald-Brown said she expected there to be “a flurry at the end of the month”.

She said: “I think the council are going to go ‘whoa’. They don’t have the resources and I think they want to backtrack but they can’t.

“Everything I own, my house and everything like that is totally built on my company.”

Aditi Jehangir, secretary of tenants’ union Living Rent, said: “The commitment to rent controls today is exactly the type of leadership we need to address the scale of the housing crisis.

“For the reforms to the private sector to work, tenants need robust legislation. We need a system of rent controls that protects all tenants, not just sitting ones, brings rents down, and forces up quality.

“We need better protections against evictions, clear timelines for repairs and the right to make our houses homes. And across all of these reforms, we need enforcement mechanisms that ensure that landlords respect the law.”

The Scottish Government has faced increasing calls to pause the new regulations.

As MSPs returned from summer recess on Tuesday, Scottish Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser asked the Government how many operators had applied to be licensed ahead of the October 1 deadline.

According to housing minister Paul McLennan, 6,323 applications for the scheme had been received.

He said: “Just over half of those have been issued with a licence but none have been refused.

“Over the last decade, the short-term sector has grown significantly and changed the nature which has brought economic benefits but also raised concerns about consistency of quality and the impact on local communities.

“Following to public consultations and independent researchers, Parliament passed licencing legislation in January 2022.

“All existing properties will need to have their application in before first of October to continue trading having had 20 months to apply.”

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