Homes First- the Astonishing Revelations about the Scale of Illegal STLs in Edinburgh
On the day Homes First publish their survey results an extraordinary picture emerges of a completely unregulated market that has disfigured housing and ruined communities in the capital. The scale of the illegality is staggering, and the fact that short-term lets (mostly Air BnB) are also benefiting from 100% tax breaks through the Small Business Bonus Scheme totalling £4.7 million is astonishing. “Running an illegal business? Come get 100% tax relief!” So here’s the latest on entire-home short-term lets in Edinburgh: they number between 6,587 and 9,409. 52% are in the City Centre & Leith Walk Wards. 22% of buildings have three or more short-term lets. 75% are not registered to pay non-domestic rates and are therefore fleecing the city. So as we try and plan urban “recovery” from covid, read this and consider the city government is already trying to get this disgraceful business model back up and running as soon as they can.
This from a thread by Andy Wightman:
Today, we publish important findings on the extent of unlawful short-term lets in Edinburgh. Since we launched the #homesfirst campaign in 2017, we have been keen to better understand the extent of short-term lets across Edinburgh.
Scraped data from InsideAirBnB has been useful but it only includes properties on the AirBnB platform (there are many others) and it includes large numbers where the owners is home-sharing in their own home.
Our principal concern has been commercial short-term lets – domestic properties that are no longer anyone’s home and are operated as commercial businesses. of most concern have been those in shared tenement stairs.
To better understand the extent of these we launched a survey in January at Homes First today we publish the results. The most remarkable finding is that of 477 commercial business properties identified, only 1 has planning consent.
Commercial short-term lets are a sui genesis (in a class of their own) Use Class and if a flat is covered to a STL it requires to apply for planning consent if the change of use is material.
Consistent case law and indeed Edinburgh Council’s own planning policy is to refuse planning consent in shared stairs. So to find that only one out of 477 has consent is a staggering pattern of unlawful activity for which no-one appears to be accountable.
Other findings include that 47% of people have 2 or more STLs in their stair and 22% have 3 or more. Imagine living with these illegal businesses and all the disturbance associated with them.
These commercial short-term lets are also benefiting from 100% tax breaks through the Small Business Bonus Scheme totalling £4.7 million. So illegal businesses get 100% tax relief.
By comparing the survey findings with the Lothian Valuation Roll, our current best estimate of the numbers of commercial short-term lets in Edinburgh is 6587 which, if the 1 out of 477 is scaled up means only 14 properties have planning consent in the City.
Most properties also have title conditions prohibiting business use – routinely flouted. All of which raises vital legal questions of liability in event of any accidents such as fire. Will damage two neighbouring property be insured, for example?
To conclude, this survey reveals the epic scale of unlawful business operating across the City and the rapacious character of many of the operators. With all businesses allowed to open on 15 July it is important to report what is happening.
You can continue to report properties you known of at homesfirst.scot and any covid-19 issues at homesfirst.scot/coronavirus For enforcement action on planning, go to Report a Problem.
Read the full Homes First survey report here: