Housing in Glasgow: Short-term let owners lose appeals over High Street flats

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The owners of six flats on Glasgow’s High Street have lost appeals against the council’s decision to rule their use as short-stay accommodation is “unlawful”.

Properties in the Merchant Building have been operated as short-term lets, managed by Principal Apartments. The firm, which runs 18 lets in the building, has secured certificates of lawfulness — allowing the use — for seven, which had operated for over 10 years.

However, council officials have said the use of other properties is unlawful, as they haven’t been “continuously used as a short-term let for a period of 10 years or more”.

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Once a change of use has been in place for over 10 years, enforcement action cannot be taken. Owners appealed to the Scottish Government but six of these have now been dismissed.

High Street is one of Glasgow's oldest original streets.High Street is one of Glasgow's oldest original streets.
High Street is one of Glasgow's oldest original streets. | Contributed

A reporter appointed by Scottish Ministers decided planning permission was required as there had been a change of use, with properties being used differently from “that which would normally be expected if the flat were occupied as mainstream residential accommodation”.

Two of the flats dealt with by reporter Euan McLaughlin are owned by Fontus Ltd while another two are owned by Keerthi Somidi. The others were owned by Grant and Lauren Cameron and Amigo Homes Ltd.

The applications for certificates of lawful use suggested the “use of the property as short-term letting accommodation does not constitute a material change from its previous use as a residential flat and therefore the use is lawful”.

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However, the reporter decided the “intensity of bookings” at the properties showed they were “occupied by a range of different people, and due  to the varying length of stays I consider that the nature of this occupation would likely change with each let”.

He said this was “untypical as to how one would expect a residential property to be used”. A shared front door used by people arriving and leaving with luggage would be “potentially more disturbing than the normal comings and goings”, he added.

The reporter concluded: “Overall, this pattern of occupation, in my opinion, is different from that which would normally be expected if the flat were occupied as mainstream residential accommodation. On this basis, I find, on the balance of probability, that the use of the property for short-term letting in the manner described by the appellants constitutes a material change which requires planning permission.”

In the appeal, Principal Apartments stated 11 flats had operated for “varying periods between 16 months and nine years, with the majority having been operating for at least five years”.

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The firm added: “The only difference between those 11 and the seven with Certificates of Lawfulness is the length of time of operation. There is no material difference between the flats which have been operating for 10 years and those operating less.”

The appeal stated the company has a “positive and active relationship with the property manager (Speirs Gumley)” and with neighbours.

Complaints are “virtually non-existent”, it added, and can be raised via a 24-hour phone line. Principal Apartments also argued short-term lets are “better managed” than private residential tenancies, which can also be “disruptive”.

The council’s claims for expenses from the owners weren’t approved by the reporter as he found they had “not acted in an unreasonable manner”.

Decisions on other flats managed by Principal Apartments are yet to be made.

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