Lochalsh and Skye Housing Association seek Highland-wide policy to address sub-letting issue

Analysis from the Chartered Institute of Housing revealed that Skye had “one Airbnb letting for every 10 houses”.

The chief executive of the Lochalsh and Skye Housing Association has said the organisation is seeking to formulate a Highland-wide policy to address the problem of tenants sub-letting their homes for holiday accommodation.

Speaking to the Free Press recently, Lochalsh and Skye Housing Association CEO Lachie MacDonald said the organisation had reported four cases of alleged sub-letting to its committee this week but stated that the association was “in limbo” until the Scottish Government established a firm set of guidelines for tenants across the country.

Analysis from the Chartered Institute of Housing published in April this year revealed that Skye had “one Airbnb letting for every 10 houses”.

However, Mr MacDonald told the Free Press: “The reality is that we are dealing with a handful of cases – currently around four – which we reported to our committee last night.

“Obviously sub-letting your property without consent is a definitive no-no because, with 400 people on the housing list, having individuals just giving up occupying properties and using them for commercial business purposes isn’t something we are likely to endorse any time soon.”

Highlighting some of the potential pitfalls for tenants choosing to sub-let their properties, Mr MacDonald said: “There is an example over in the Western Isles where an individual let their property solely for Airbnb. He had moved out altogether and the property had burnt down by accident. His insurers refused point-blank to pay out because he hadn’t told them that he had moved out of the property which was his principal home and as he was using it for short-letting purposes they told him he had negated the policy and wasn’t covered.

“The double whammy was that his mortgage company came back and said ‘you didn’t tell us you were operating a business and therefore we are calling up the loan and you need to repay it to us’.”

He added: “It’s an extreme example but these are some of the dangers and risks that people need to be aware of. If people are using their home as a business it does have to be regulated in some way.”

In July the Scottish Government held a public meeting in Portree as part of its consultation on short-term lets which closed on 19th July.

Commenting on the next steps, Mr MacDonald said: “We have asked the Highland Council and our partners at the Highland Housing Register if we can agree on a Highland-wide policy in the meantime so there is a consistency in approach across Highland at the very least.

“This is going to be discussed at the next meeting of the Highland Housing Register, which is coming up very soon. But what we would like to see is for the Scottish Government to come out with good guidance for all landlords in Scotland.

“In the meantime, we are in limbo and are relying on the tenancy agreement between us and the tenant. If there is a clear breach, then it would then be for us to consider what action to take. One, to get them to stop doing it; or two, to take action to remove them from the property if they refuse to do that.

“We don’t want to be evicting people – housing is difficult enough to come by. We have a deliberate tenancy sustainment policy to make sure that people don’t get evicted from their property, but in the face of some of this we have no option but to take action.”

Article by Adam Gordon

Photo by Sabine Peters on Unsplash