Edinburgh council has been trying to regulate the short-term let market in the city, which is dominated by Airbnb-style properties. The council claims that these properties have a negative impact on the availability and affordability of housing, as well as the quality of life and safety of residents. The council has introduced a short-term let control area that covers the whole city, requiring owners of short-term lets to obtain planning permission and a licence to operate. The council has also set a cap of 45 nights per year for short-term lets in residential properties, and a limit of two guests per bedroom.
However, the council’s policy has faced legal opposition from some short-term let operators and property management companies, who argue that it is unlawful, unfair and illogical. They have challenged the council’s decision to designate the whole city as a control area, as well as the criteria and conditions for granting planning permission and licences. They have also claimed that the council has failed to consult adequately with the stakeholders and the public, and that the policy is inconsistent with the national guidance and legislation.
The legal challenge has been heard by Lord Braid at the Court of Session, who has issued two rulings on the matter. In his first ruling, in August 2023, he declared that the council’s decision to designate the whole city as a control area was unlawful, as it did not take into account the diversity and variation of different areas and types of properties in the city. He also said that the council had misinterpreted the Scottish Government’s guidance on short-term lets, and that it had exceeded its powers under the planning legislation.
In his second ruling, in December 2023, he upheld his previous decision and added that the council’s approach to granting planning permission and licences was not only unfair, but illogical. He said that the council had imposed a blanket ban on short-term lets in residential properties, regardless of their location, size, design or impact. He also said that the council had failed to provide clear and consistent reasons for its decisions, and that it had ignored or disregarded the evidence and representations of the applicants.
The court rulings have cast doubt on the council’s ability to implement its policy and to control the short-term let market in the city. The council has said that it is disappointed with the rulings and that it is considering its options for further action. The council has also said that it remains committed to regulating short-term lets and to protecting the interests of residents and communities.
The short-term let operators and property management companies have welcomed the rulings and said that they vindicate their position and their right to operate in the city. They have also said that they are willing to work with the council and the Scottish Government to find a balanced and proportionate solution that respects the needs and views of all parties.
The Scottish Government has said that it respects the court’s decision and that it will review its guidance and legislation on short-term lets in light of the rulings. The government has also said that it recognises the role and benefits of short-term lets, but also the challenges and concerns they pose for some communities.