Tuesday, 5 May 2009
I've just come out of one of my committee meetings - that of the Public Petitions Committee and felt compelled to talk about something that appears to be a growing problem and that's the largely unregulated properties for "holiday lets" or as they're now commonly known, "party flats". The petitioner lives in a tenemental property in Edinburgh where some of the other flats are owned by landlords who rent them out for short lets. Before I tell you about the problems associated with party flats, I should say the purpose of the petition is to ask the Scottish Government to tighten up a loophole which allows these property owners to not register their properties and exempts them from complying with HMO (house of multiple occupancy) regulations.
I don't expect there will be any opposition from the government and indeed, a review of HMO will be taking place later this year.
I really felt for the petitioner who was obviously basing his petition on his own experience but pointed out that it was a far more widespread problem than simply his close. I remember when the guy who lived below me in Battlefield used to fall asleep playing terrible, monotonous club music louder than any club I've ever been in and he'd not wake up till about 6am when he finally switched it off. Now I was young and I am not the world's shyest person but even I felt powerless to do anything. The level of stress you suffer when you cannot relax in your own home is almost indescribable. You have nowhere to escape to. I was reduced to tears on many an occasion.
This, however, is different and far far worse simply because if the flat above you is let out specifically for short "party" lets, then of course the folk renting them will have parties - we all behave differently on holiday, let's face it. The folk renting them will also probably never see you again so have no need to build neighbourly relations - the guy in my flat really didn't want to have us on his back all the time so it only happened once every six weeks or so but folk taking party lets can have their party and disappear the next day without having to face the people whose night's sleep they've wrecked.
One of two things needs to happen here. Either these landlords need to be regulated and properly held to account for the behaviour of their tenants making them far more likely to ensure tenants know to be courteous toward the residents of the close. Or property owners simply aren't allowed to rent out flats in residential blocks for this purpose. I wouldn't want to go as far as the latter because of course we want to be able to cater for the differing needs of tourists. I don't think we'll have to go that far but I really do hope for the sake of these folk having to suffer constant late night parties from people they don't even know, that we get the right regulation in place as soon as possible.