Holiday let landlords ‘undermine private housing laws’

Private housing legislation is being increasingly undermined in Scotland by a loophole that allows landlords to class their properties as holiday lets, according to a new report.

Tenants’ union Living Rent claims it sees growing numbers of people on such leases, which offer almost none of the rights they would get under other private rental agreements.

Its paper says some contracts last for up to 10 months and calls for “urgent action”, including a cap on the length of holiday lets and for these landlords to be subject to registration requirements.

It comes as Airbnb-style letting properties have seen a surge across parts of Scotland, with the union estimating there are more holiday lets in central Edinburgh than normal private residential lets.

Megan Bishop, from Living Rent and co-author of the report, said: “It’s abysmal how tenants are being treated.

“We’ve had cases from tenants living in properties in such extreme disrepair it’s threatening their health and safety.

“We welcome the Scottish Government’s consultation on holiday lets but if they are serious about protecting tenants they need take action now to close this loophole and drastically step up regulation and ensure tenants are safe.”

Mouldy ceiling
The ceiling of one property lived in by a tenant (Living Rent)

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced a consultation into holiday lets but the union says the Government could do more to resolve the issue without new legislation.

It is urging the Scottish Government not to wait until the consultation has finished to do so.

The report highlights that holiday lets mean landlords and agencies operating on their behalf do need to register, properties are exempt from HMO licensing and tenants are not entitled to third-party protection of their deposits.

It also shows the properties are not subject to the same standards in terms of fire safety and it is significantly easier to evict someone from such a property.

Holiday lets are not subject to the same standards of upkeep as other private rental agreements (Living Rent)

One property owner in the report was said to have been stricken off the register but still operating under holiday let agreements.

The concentration of Airbnb properties in Edinburgh is amongst the highest in the world, with 53 residents to each let – greater than London, New York, Berlin and Barcelona.

Living Rent understands there are now more holiday lets in central Edinburgh than normal private residential lets.

Reports show Glasgow has also had an increase of more than 40% in such properties in a year, while the number of listings in the Highlands has increased by more than 80%.