Do you live on a common stair? Have you ever wondered what all the fuss is about when it comes to holidaymakers coming to live amongst regular city residents? Scott Richards describes his first year’s disturbing experience of living alongside an AirBnB-style short-term let.
Twenty-two great years as an East End flat dweller in Edinburgh, enjoying everything our beautiful and culturally rich city has had to offer (50 years for my local wife) … are difficult to recall after one year of living next door to Alice.
Alice is, of course, the name of a short-term holiday let on a popular BnB rental website.
Our owner-occupier neighbours had earlier packed up their belongings and headed for the burbs with assurances they’d only rent to long-termers. After all, two other flats in our tenement had been long-term rentals for years and produced none of the anti-social behaviour you might have read about in connection to holiday lets here in the capital.
But then came a van, branded with the name of a popular holiday rental website. The staff were here to ready the flat for the first guests, and my urgent and slightly panicked phone calls to our former neighbours went unanswered. Further calls have never been returned.
Strangers at the door
I’ll spare you the bleating detail of every visit, but here is a typical example:
Thursday, 11.30pm – Taxi arrives in our car park and the thud and rattle of trolley cases can be clearly heard. I’m instantly awake and dreading the next hour.
The excited holidaymakers (always six and sometimes many more) gather around the front door, a metre from my son’s bedroom window. Some nationalities do quiet, respectful chat whilst solving a shared problem such as the whereabouts of the key safe, and some don’t. These visitors are from the latter group – they shout, they smoke, they loudly debate their unexpected challenge outside my bedroom window.
In the morning I'll find their cigarette butts scattered over the grass. Before long, my door-buzzer sounds and a voice in broken English politely asks to be let into the stair for a chat about the key location.
I’m fully awake now and checking the clock. I know I’ll not be in bed before midnight, with an hour of wakefulness to follow.
‘Are you the caretaker?’
‘No, I just live here.’
Before I can warn them, they set-off the burglar alarm and the families around the holiday let rise from their slumbers and a baby in Flat 8 has begun to cry.
An unusually angry visitor from Canada once cornered me as I walked to the front door and demanded to know if I was the janitor. I politely gave my usual response, but, undeterred, she took me to task about the level of cleanliness in her rented bathroom. Didn’t I know she’d paid a lot of money?
Eventually, satisfied that she’d given the janitor a suitably severe scolding, she turned and walked out of the front door, leaving it ajar and inviting entry to anyone who might care to wander in.
I waited for several months, hoping the flat would be turned over to long-term rentals, but eventually I reported this unlicensed hotel to Edinburgh Council. I received a prompt but templated response, assuring me it would be investigated. I’ve heard nothing since, and still the happy hordes arrive late at night for their much anticipated holiday in our ‘beautiful holiday village’.
Except, ‘Watch our for the janitor, he’s very sour’. One rating star has been deducted from the online review.
[Silhouette image: <a href="https://www.freevector.com/traveling-people-silhouettes">FreeVector.com</a>]