AN estate agent has been banned from running an Airbnb let in a residential block on Glasgow’s West End in a landmark case.

Stephen McGlone, who owns Westgate Estate agents, lost an appeal heard by the Scottish Government, against the first enforcement notice issued by Glasgow City Council, a decision that could have implications for hundreds of owners.

Council regulations, introduced in March 2017, mean it is now forbidden to rent out an entire flat for short-term lets including Airbnb in a close with a communal entrance. An individual room can be rented out if the owner remains living in the property.

Change of use planning permission is required in other cases but may be refused in areas where there is a high density of rented flats, including Crosshill, Dennistoun, the West End of Glasgow and Strathbungo.

The short-term rental service allows homeowners or tenants to rent out properties for side income and is a huge hit with budget-conscious travellers, world-wide.

The council said any ‘unauthorised short stay accommodation’ including Airbnb lets would be investigated but that enforcement would be ‘complaints led.’

Glasgow Times:

Airbnb say hosts are reminded to work within the parameters of local authority guidelines.

Mr McGlone’s appeal centred on his claim that operating his flat as an Airbnb did not constitute a ‘change of use’ from residential.

However, Christopher Warren, the reporter appointed by the Scottish Government to hear his appeal, said: “The inability of other residents to establish who may be occupying the flat at any given time, and more significantly, the inevitability of permanent residents regularly encountering strangers in communal (but still private) areas of the building, is an indication that the nature of the use of the flat for letting markedly differs from that of other residential flats in the same building.”

The council said the enforcement notice followed complaints from neighbouring residents about noise and disturbance at the block, which is known as the The Galleries.

Glasgow was the first city to introduce stricter rules on Airbnb but it is understood Edinburgh has now introduced a similar policy.

Glasgow Times:

Mr McGlone has been given a month to cease trading at his two-bedroom, second floor flat at 1081 Sauchiehall Street, which overlooks Kelvingrove Art Gallery, or face a £2000 fine.

He said: “When I set it up in 2016, I told the council it was going to used as an Airbnb and the council said ‘no problem.’

“I did ask if planning permission was required and they said it was not required. They are now saying I am trading illegally.

“My argument was, my flat is in a tourist hotspot. I’ve been providing a service.

“With regard to the noise there was one party in February 2017 and I cooperated with the council.”

Another owner, who lets out two Airbnb flats on Glasgow’s West End, said: “The key is, what is this bringing to the city.

“Glasgow is always lagging behind Edinburgh in terms of tourism and you have to show a bit of empathy to tourists coming to Glasgow. There is very limited access to hotels in parts of the city including the South Side and the West End.

Glasgow Times:

“Like anything it has to be regulated, but in this case, you have to think who is going to benefit? Is it the tourists? Is it the person who is looking to add a little extra to their income. No, it’s going to be big businesses.”

The council’s first ban has been welcomed by Hugh O’Hanlon, who lives in the same block as Mr McGlone’s flat.

He said:“It is watershed moment for Glasgow City Council in their efforts to protect residents affected by individuals who seek to break the law and adversely affect the living conditions of residents.

“Planning Policy is quite clear in relation to holiday lets operating in blocks of flats and flagrant disregard of planning law by a high profile estate agent and business owner is an unacceptable practice.”

A spokesman for Glasgow City Council, said: “This is the first case to be enforced in Glasgow.

“The enforcement action is complaints-led, and we will respond to complaints about potential breaches of planning policy as they come in.

“Permission cannot be given for an entire flat to operate as an Airbnb property if it is within a close with a communal entrance, but what can be given is if an individual room is used for those purposes while the owner live there.”

An Airbnb spokesman said: “We regularly remind hosts to check and follow local rules. We have also been leading talks with the Scottish government on new rules for homesharers, and are actively engaged in ensuring that home sharing continues to grow responsibly and sustainably.”