Self-catering hosts tell of attacks and abuse as licensing system looms

Calls have been made to postpone the deadline for new laws regarding short-term lets.

Self-catering hosts tell of attacks and abuse as Scottish Government’s new licensing system looms iStock

Self-catering hosts in Scotland have described abuse and physical assaults – as six in 10 said they are preparing to close in September ahead of new legislation.

Calls have been made to postpone the deadline for new laws regarding short-term lets.

The deadline for short-term let businesses and hosts to register with the Scottish Government is October 1, after which it will be a criminal offence for them to let a room in their home, or an entire property.

It includes guesthouses and bed and breakfasts but does not cover larger commercial developments such as aparthotels.

A survey of more than 1,200 business owners by the Association of Scottish Self-caterers (ASSC), found 61% of bed and breakfasts and small holiday let businesses were preparing to shut their doors at the end of September.

It said this was “due to the inherent flaws in the Government’s licensing scheme for short-term lets”.

As of August 7, local authority licensing registers indicated 84% of all types of short-term lets had not applied. In Edinburgh, it was 97%.

Short term lets have become a controversial subject in Edinburgh because of the impact on more traditional forms of renting, accusations of anti-social behaviour and the effect on bin collections.

Louise Dickins, 55, has lived in Edinburgh nearly 30 years, and said she had been branded a “parasite” because of her self-catering business.

Ms Dickins said: “I have faced a barrage of harassment, abuse and vitriol that has, I’m not ashamed to say, really affected me.

“I’ve been accused of solely ‘taking from the economy’ rather than contributing to our thriving eco-system of small shops, restaurants, venues and other businesses, and that is very difficult to process.

“I’m a 55-year-old woman. I have lived in Edinburgh for close to 30 years. It’s where I’m raising my family and worked hard to establish my business.

“It’s where I call home. But I’m not welcome, according to some. I believed Scotland was better than this.

“The comments and sheer ignorance over the last week has made me feel like an outsider – a parasite – for daring to operate a self-catering business in the city I love, the city I have given so much to.

“I have always known that the short-term lets debate would be heated, and I’ve held my own on more than one occasion, but this week has made me realise just how divisive and toxic it has become.”

City of Edinburgh Council leader, Cammy Day, called for a delay to the rollout of the legislation, but backtracked on his comments.

Fiona Campbell, ASSC chief executive, said she had been physically attacked and that the man was convicted.

Ms Campbell, chief executive of the ASSC, said: “The treatment and misinformation shared about small tourism businesses over the course of the last three years has been sustained, toxic and exhausting for those of us committed to running safe, responsible and welcoming holiday lets.

“I was physically assaulted for earning an honest living.”

She added: “I urge the Scottish Government to intervene and correct the misrepresentation of our sector, not least among parliamentarians who have characterised tourism businesses as sex traffickers, drug dealers and puppy farmers. It is causing irrevocable harm.

“Engaging constructively with our proposals to improve this legislation will set an example that will hopefully de-toxify what has become a very unpleasant debate in parts.

“We are pro regulation. We are pro health and safety. We are pro affordable housing.

“We firmly believe that if the Scottish Government took time to truly listen to our concerns and the solutions we have presented, Scotland could have a world-leading licensing system.

“But I fear it may soon be too late for that.”

The Scottish Government has been contacted for comment.

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