Airbnb under spotlight as Lochaber residents asked for their views

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Airbnb holiday lets in Lochaber will be in the spotlight as residents are being urged to give their views on whether stricter regulation for short-term leases should be introduced.

The Scottish Government has launched a consultation on short-term letting controls, which it described as a ‘subject of much controversy’ which ‘evokes strong opinions’.

The government will also be conducting research into the direct effects of short-term lets on communities, neighbourhoods and housing supply across Scotland.

In response to the announcement, Fort William Accommodation Marketing Group (FWAMG), which represents B&Bs and guesthouses in Lochaber, said it will ensure equality for its members when competing with Airbnb.

FWAMG vice-chairman John Jarvis-Jones said: ‘The trouble is that, as a landlord, you can earn more in a week from AirbnB than you can renting a residential property on a monthly basis.

‘If you live in a property that’s rented out to Airbnb, you can claim the lodger’s allowance of £7,500 per year tax free. This has given some in the area an immediate advantage over those legitimate businesses that concur with current legislation regarding fire, health and safety, food safety and insurances and taxes.’

Kate Forbes MSP welcomed the consultation and urged her constituents to give their views on a new system of regulation to make sure short-term lets face the same normal controls as any other accommodation would.

‘Airbnb has broadened the accommodation available to tourists in many parts of my constituency,’ said Ms Forbes. ‘It is a helpful source of income for many people during the summer. But that has to be balanced with the pressures on housing stock for local people who can’t find affordable accommodation.’

Airbnb said it wishes to form a good partnership with governments and to work together on clear rules that allow everyone to benefit from tourism in Scotland.

A spokesperson said: ‘Almost half of Scottish hosts say the additional income helps them afford their homes and we look forward to working with the Scottish Government to support the sustainable growth of modern people-powered tourism.’

The consultation runs until July 19 and the survey can be accessed on the Scottish Government website.