AS the number of short-term lets in Scotland is on the rise, a tenants’ union has created an app they believe will change the housing landscape.

Living Rent, Scotland’s national tenants’ union, launched an app for residents to raise objections to new short-term lets, shortly before the Scottish Government’s new licensing scheme came into effect on Sunday.

The new licensing scheme means that operators must apply for an license before they can start operating, or they could face a £2500 fine and a ban from applying for a license for a year. 

In order to be granted a license, operators have been required to apply for planning permission to use the building as a short-term let. The Living Rent app works by finding planning permission requests and providing template objections to be sent to council areas. 

Gordon Maloney (below), has been involved with Living Rent since its founding in 2014, and built the app over a few weeks while the new legislation was coming into effect.

The National:

He told The National that the project “aims to give members of the public a say over their communities” in making it easier to object to new short-term lets in their area.

He added that the ability to object to new short-term lets makes the planning process more democratic.

“Across Scotland, tenants and communities are suffering the effects of the housing crisis, and this crisis is made so much worse by the overabundance of short-term lets.

“For every holiday let, communities lose a home.”

Is the app necessary?

As of October 1, 2022, a total of 2587 valid licence applications have been submitted to the Scottish Government.

The National previously reported that zero applications had been rejected.

Whilst the number of short-term lets may be a sign of Scotland’s tourist appeal, it also reflects the darker side of Scottish tourism: The commodification of the housing market which results in skyrocketing prices, and a lower amount of properties available to renters.

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In cities such as Edinburgh – where the app is currently available – residents have complained at the number of lock boxes nailed to buildings, often used by Airbnb-style owners to simplify the check-in and check-out process.


Airbnb and key boxes……

♬ original sound - Quinnergy 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿

Maloney said the response he had received since the app went live was “overwhelmingly positive”.

He continued: “It shows that in communities across Scotland, people are fed up with the eye watering profits of landlords taking precedence over the needs of residents.

“The response to the tool underlines how important it is – this is something that members of the public were already in theory able to do, but the enormous uptake of the tool underlines how inaccessible that process would have otherwise been.”

Landlords aren't happy

The scheme has faced backlash from landlords and other short-term lets operators, who have argued that the scheme will have a significant impact on their livelihoods.

A survey by the Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers (ASSC) had previously found 64% of operators are considering leaving the sector because of the new licensing scheme.

Frustrations culminated in a protest outside Holyrood shortly before the scheme came into effect, with protesters holding signs and accusing the Scottish Government of “demonising” operators of short-term let accommodation.

The National:

One sign sparked outrage as it compared the Scottish Government’s actions to that of a “pogrom parliament”.

Pogrom is a Russian word, historically used to refer to violent attacks or “organised massacre” of Jewish populations and other ethnic groups in Russia and other countries in Europe.

Another landlord compared the scheme to the Highland Clearances.

Short-term lets operators have reacted similarly to Gordon’s app, with one saying: "You could build an app to feed starving children. But no. You are just misguided by [your] hate. A waste of life."

Our new app for objecting to short term let applications in Edinburgh is getting rave reviews from the landlords. See what all the fuss is about, and add to their misery, here:

Maloney said the reaction of short-term lets landlords had been “apoplectic”.

He continued: “Their extreme response – comparing the tool to Hitler, comparing regulation of short-term lets to pogroms or the Clearances – just shows how desperately this industry needs to be regulated.

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“We simply cannot rely on these people to exercise restraint or to ever strike a balance between their own interests and the needs of communities.”

So, what’s next?

The app is currently only available in Edinburgh, although Maloney confirmed plans to expand to the rest of Scotland.

Whilst highly populated areas such as cities are a priority, Living Rent aims to focus their efforts further north, in the Highlands and Na h-Eileanan Siar.

Since applications for the short-term lets licensing scheme first opened in October 2022, valid applications as a rate per 10,000 dwellings in the City of Edinburgh are at 3.4 per 10,000.

Meanwhile, valid applications have been highest in Na h-Eileanan Siar (78 per 10,000 dwellings), Highland (75), Dumfries and Galloway (57) and Orkney (44).

Maloney posted on Twitter/X that progress had already been made on expanding the app.

He added: “We have big plans to add functionality, such as lodging complaints about existing short-term lets that are operating unlawfully.

“As a volunteer-driven project we are working as fast as we can to make that happen.”

But is local government doing enough to enforce regulations?

Maloney argued that “unlawful behaviour from landlords routinely goes unpunished” across Scotland’s housing system.

He continued: “It is vital now that councils invest seriously in proper enforcement of new and existing regulations.

“If not, the message landlords will receive is that they have nothing to lose by chancing it – and it is tenants that lose out when that happens.”

The Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers has been contacted for comment.

The importance of joining a union

Living Rent was first formed in 2014 with the aim of campaigning for rent controls.

The campaign was successful in 2022, when the Scottish Government announced that rent increases in private tenancies would be capped at 3%.

The cap is expected to stay in place until March 31, 2024 at the latest.

Maloney first got involved with Living Rent in October 2014, after he had “dreadful experiences” with landlords.

“I could see how much worse the situation was becoming for renters,” he said.

He urged anyone who is facing a similar situation to join the union, particularly for those who live in areas the app does not yet cover.

He added: “People should join their local branch and get active in their own area!”

Find your local Living Rent branch here.