131. The consultation paper noted that the Scottish Expert Advisory Panel on the Collaborative Economy recorded that, while the number of recorded short-term let premises with antisocial behaviour investigations in 2016 and 2017 appeared to be small relative to the tourist footfall, information provided by the City of Edinburgh Council indicated that this issue is significantly under-reported. The Advisory Panel recommended that communities and residents need to be aware that they are able to make complaints, and how to make these complaints. Question 10 asked,
Q10: 'Do you have any comments about complaint systems for short-term lets?'
132. A total of 704 respondents commented at this question. The following table provides a breakdown of those who chose to respond.
Table 14: Q10
|Host with 1 property||130|
|Host with 2+ properties||66|
|Hotel / B&B owner||8|
|Other (non short-term let) landlord||15|
133. A number of respondents commented on the current complaints system, with the main comments from a few respondents being that they were unaware of a complaints system or that there is not a complaints system at present. These comments were made by higher numbers of affected guests and community organisations than other sub-groups of respondent. Smaller numbers of respondents (again, more affected guests and community organisations than other sub-groups) felt the current complaints system in general is ineffective, or too slow and ineffective as the individuals who are complained about will have left by the time the complaint is dealt with. Some of these respondents referred specifically to the complaints system in Edinburgh.
134. A small minority of respondents mentioned the need for a complaints system to be advertised so that individuals are aware that this exists and have information on how to make a complaint. This comment came from respondents across all sub-groups.
135. A few respondents highlighted elements of a complaints system they would like to see introduced and these included a procedure in place to allow formal complaints to be registered, staff who can respond quickly to complaints, a system that is transparent and offers easy access, and rapid enforcement of complaints. Many of these respondents highlighted that a complaints system should not simply be for collating information but that it needs to be enforced. There were higher levels of support for these elements of a complaints system from affected residents and community organisations. A very small number of respondents felt that any complaints system should have independent oversight, with a governing body, a regulator or an ombudsman.
136. The issue of licensing and registration was cited by a few respondents who felt this should be introduced in line with the private rented sector so as to provide a framework for short-term lets which would be simple to replicate. The benefits of licensing or registration in relation to a complaints system included that this would help to increase awareness of landlords' responsibilities, it would give neighbours a point of contact for complaints and force owners to follow a Code of Conduct.
137. While this question focused on a complaints system for short-term lets, a few respondents referred to sanctions that should be applied when complaints are made. These included revocation of licences and fines; and were cited by higher numbers of affected residents and hotels / B&Bs. A similar number of respondents also suggested there should be a public register of owners providing contact details of the owner or agent so that they can be contacted immediately and act upon a complaint when it is made.
138. Other issues raised by very small numbers of respondents included:
- Most hosts are already responsible and provide contact details to neighbours who might be affected by antisocial behaviour.
- Reference to the need for a code of conduct for all owners to sign up to; some of these referred specifically to the ASSC Code of conduct.
- Antisocial behaviour is not specific to short-term lets and, for example, students and private rental tenants can exhibit antisocial behaviour all year round.
- Most complaints will be minor.
- Platforms should be obliged to forward complaints and information to the local authority.
- Any complaints system needs to operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week; most complaints are likely to be late at night.
- There is a need for a centralised complaints system to allow for monitoring of complaints. There were some suggestions for a hotline to be set up, although there were also comments that this would need to be well publicised.
- There should be a review-based approach similar to that offered by Airbnb that offers a capacity for neighbours to comment.
- Concerns that this could create legislation that may be needed in Edinburgh but is not needed elsewhere.
- The need for resources to be able to effectively operate a complaints system.
- The need for joint working across stakeholders. As one organisation noted,
"Complaints regarding the activities of short-term lets are distinct from complaints about the change of use. Management and monitoring requires a joined up approach between housing officers, antisocial behaviour teams, the police, environmental health and planning. However if the remit is shared across too many departments the approach might be inconsistent and piecemeal. This has been the experience at Westminster council, where initially a taskforce was set up in the planning departments enforcement team has subsequently moved to the Public Protection & Licensing team as part of the Housing Standards Taskforce."
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