Tenement properties – comments on options proposed
The simplest regulatory approach is option 1, being a universal position of the unsuitability of tenements for commercial uses such as STL. Tenements have many different forms in the city, and it is important to understand that ‘tenement’ refers not to an architectural type but to a form of tenure of vertical ownership (refer Tenement Scotland Act).
We would suggest that for clarity, the policy includes main door flats in tenements as well, as these tend to have direct access to private garden spaces which hold a premium for family accommodation in the city. Given that option 1 allows an owner to challenge a decision, this ensures fairness in the decision-making process. Guidance on what might be accepted as a rebuttal presumption might be helpful.
We do not support option 2 for several reasons. Firstly, there are many properties in the city where all, or almost all, flats are used for STL uses. In these instances, the vested interests of operators would suggest no real independence in terms of policy presumption. Secondly, it is not clear enough to address situations where only one or a minority of owners object to the granting of a licence where other STL operators might support. This would need a clear presumption in favour of residents even if they are in the minority. Thirdly, it might be expected that an applicant would suggest an exemption based on hardship or other personal circumstances which if accepted, results in negative impacts on others. Fourthly, it might result in undo pressure being placed on owners to consent. Fifthly, there are buildings in the city where all the flats are owned/managed by a single operator who would effectively be arguing for their own applications to be approved. Finally, there a consent process might need to be extended to tenants as well, and not just owners, as they would experience any anti-social behaviour that might result from a STL in a common stair
Overall, no specific instance in option 2 cannot be remedied by the rebuttal process suggested in option 1.
Home letting– proposals to set limitations on number of nights
To be consistent with the current planning regulations and temporary uses, a maximum of 4 weeks (28 days) should be set as the limit. However, we accept that there might be instances where home letting for longer periods might be required (eg. an owner has work contract in another location for, say, 3 months, or has a job that requires work a remote location on a regular and timed basis such as a worker on an oil rig. In such instances, rebuttal presumption enabling an applicant to justify why their application should be granted as an exemption to this policy is reasonable where they can demonstrate personal circumstances.
Licensing policy – comments on proposed policy
It is essential for the policy to set out very clear management criteria for STL operations as to what is acceptable and what is not. Notice of Application – there are issues with the current notification process for hospitality businesses in that the posting of an application notice by the applicant “on or near” the premises is too vague. Given the potential impact on neighbouring properties, we believe that adjacent properties should be notified separately much akin to the Neighbour Notification procedures for planning consent, albeit with the responsibility placed on the applicant’s shoulders to ensure the information has been distributed. Evidence of this included in the certificate required (para 4.5).
Temporary exemptions – comments on proposed policy
It is a feature of the events and tourism industry in Edinburgh that large numbers of visitors enter into the city at any given time, whether for a Festivals or sporting events like the Six Nations Rugby. As such, it should not be necessary for many temporary exemptions to be permitted. However, if so, then we agree that they should be subject to the same mandatory and additional conditions as other applications.
Additional licence conditions – comments on proposals
If the licencing regime permits STL in tenements, the issue of density of use and the vertical disposition of rooms becomes an issue. Significant problems arise with STL when communal areas are used as sleeping spaces through the use of sofa beds, etc. This was recognised in the early consultations by the Scottish Government and we feel that this should be something included in the licencing application assessment especially if information such as a layout plan is required (ref para 4.2). This is less of an issue if STL are not permitted in common stairs.
Enforcement – any regulatory/licencing scheme is only as good as the enforcement given to it. The Policy must set out firm and clear guidelines on compliance and enforcement and include provisions when a licence might be revoked due to substantial or continual breaches of regulations. Whilst this is highlighted in para 4.41, threshold criteria should be considered for clarity. For example, a set of guidelines on what might constitute a variation, suspension of revocation of a licence would be helpful to both operators and neighbours alike – something like three complaints for disturbance to the Police would result in an enforcement action.
Enforcement fees – we have no objection to the proposals set out in para 4.38. However, we advocate a sliding fee scale for repeat offenders – other property-based and host – rising with each enforcement action that takes place.
Conditions – Overall, the Cockburn finds the additional conditions sset out in Appendix 2 acceptable. However, we offer the following comments on some specific points.
- STL 3 suggests that hosts must provide a key-holding service when guests arriving between 9pm and 7am. We understand the reasoning for this, but disruption can occur outside these hours. Also, if tenemental properties are not to be used for STL purposes, then the significant impact of out-or-hour access is obviated.
- STL5 – we welcome the requirement for hosts to take reasonable steps to deal with anti-social behaviour. Guidance on these ‘reasonable steps’ should be prepared and included in each STL property, setting out some basic requirements for guests. This links to STL 7 as well.
- STL 6 – Key boxes. Again, if STL are to be permitted in tenements, specific guidance is required. In this instance, consent must be required from all proprietors without exception.
- STL 7 – In addition to the points made in the conditions, license holders should also be required to ensure that the use of a STL property should not disturb the right of neighbours to enjoy their properties peacefully.
- STL 11 – We are not clear on the purpose of the condition to insist on carpeting of rooms in secondary lets. If it is for the purposes of sound insulation, acoustic underlay is more important. Again, some guidance and technical specifications for material might be useful.
It is essential for the Council in implementing this regime to ensure that adequate resources are made available for its effective operation. Coordination with Police Scotland on enforcement and the reporting of complaints will be an important to the management of the system and should be made open and transparent.
Finally, the register of licences STLs should be made public with a searchable archive.