Airbnb owners will need the go-ahead from the majority of tenement neighbours in the Scottish capital to offer their homes as short-term lets under licensing plans put forward by an influential civic society.

The Cockburn Association, Edinburgh's heritage watchdog, said urgent action is needed to keep the burgeoning holiday landlord industry in check as the scale and speed of growth in the market outstrips current housing legislation.

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Professor Cliff Hague, association chairman, made the call after the society examined the rise of the "Airbnb phenomenon" - the upsurge of the short-term letting platform which brought nearly 640,000 guests to Edinburgh last year, with the typical host earning £4,255 by renting out their home 41 days in the year.


Airbnb insists it has responded to concerns and supports new industry-wide regulations it said will help provide "clarity and legal certainty" and to clamp down on unauthorised operators, while one Edinburgh operator said a registration system would prevent anti-social behaviour.

However, Prof Hague said a binding licensing system is needed to ensure the adequate policing of the letting system.

He said that, in tenement properties, consent from a majority of home owners - excluding the proposer - should be required before a licence is granted.

A full licensing service with landlords needing a licence first is one option or another is a so called negative licensing process under which all properties would be registered and eligible to offer short-lets, but the council would have the power to “ban” or “remove from the register” properties if a property was poorly managed or deemed unsuitable.

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Prof Hague said there are concerns over how the short-term letting industry is affecting housing availability.

He said "it is clear that short-term letting is important and needed both for tourism purposes but also wider business support" but also "in parts of Edinburgh, the proliferation of Airbnb is having a significant impact on resident amenity and community cohesion".

HeraldScotland: Airbnb.

He said: "There are concerns that the stock of available and affordable housing is being reduced, and that the character of the Old Town in particular is being changed.

"The burden of managing the stair in a tenement becomes more onerous and falls on the diminishing number of permanent residents.

"Since many short-lets are in older properties, this constitutes a long term threat to the fabric of Edinburgh.

"There are also concerns that commercial lets may not be paying proper rates and taxes."

Read more: Airbnb launches Edinburgh experiences campaign​

He said: "The Cockburn Association believes that effective regulation is now an imperative, and is required as a matter of urgency.

"Short-term lets must be regulated.

"Regulation needs to be put in place urgently.

"Though more information is needed on the components of the dramatic increase in properties listed on Airbnb, it seems beyond doubt that not only is change taking place, but the rate of change is rapid and the scale is significant.

"The time to act is now."

Residents have also raised concerns over the turn-over of neighbours and Bill Cowan, of Edinburgh Old Town Community Council, said short-term lets "squeeze out the population".

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Louise Dickins, whose firm lets self catering homes in Edinburgh, said that all owners, or their agents should have to register with their local authority and give a phone number which is accessible 24 hours a day, so they can be contacted in the event of anti-social behaviour and for common repairs.

A spokesman for Airbnb said: "We always welcome discussions on clear home sharing rules and are pleased that Scotland is taking steps to support local families.

"Airbnb guests boost Scotland’s economy by £1 million a day and we are pleased to be working with the government on clear home sharing rules, so more Scots can benefit directly from innovative forms of tourism.”

It comes as an annual council survey found while 76 per cent said the city’s festivals make it a better place to stay, six per cent - up from half a per cent five years ago - think its festivals make Edinburgh a worse place to live, and the question of tackling over-tourism with a tourist tax was raised again.

Read more: Surge in support for tourist tax in Edinburgh

Residents’ festivals attendance was at an all-time high at 67 per cent, but the council revealed "public perception of the festivals may have reached a level where it represents a strategic risk to the long-term success of the city region".

Adam McVey, council leader, said: “Last year’s festivals broke all records, thanks in no small part to the unique celebrations of the 70th anniversary.

"There is no doubt this swelling in population requires management, but by working closely with the festivals and other partners we are looking at ways of supporting their success.

"It is crucial for the festivals to remain sustainable and for our services to continue running smoothly, which is also why we will continue to take forward our plans to introduce a Tourism Visitor Levy – one that will allow the city to further benefit from its own popularity and the council to reinvest funds into priority areas.”