Is the Edinburgh Fringe under threat?


Since 1947, Edinburgh has welcomed performers and tourists to the city as part of its summer Fringe Festival. Many make the annual pilgrimage to Auld Reekie to see the very best (and bizarre) in comedy, music and theatre – from established names to aspiring newcomers.

It’s estimated that around 2,500 artists take part at the Fringe every year, attracting an audience of up to 400,000. As such, the Fringe has made Edinburgh the centre of the British entertainment industry every August, with landlords gearing their businesses toward meeting not just the demands of the local housing market but also the acts and tourists wishing to come and stay in the city during the Festival.

The existing system

At present, the private rented sector (PRS) works very well in providing accommodation for both purposes. In fact, it’s a tried and trusted recipe; with many landlords offering student lets for 10 months of the year and then letting to festival-goers during August.

Yet the new Private Housing (Tenancies) (Scotland) Act from Holyrood could potentially alter this established relationship and tradition and have a significant impact on accommodating future Fringe attendees.

What will change?

Under changes introduced in the Act, the existing Short Assured Tenancy (SATs) in Scotland, which can be used flexibly to offer a 10 month tenancy, will be replaced with a potentially indefinite alternative. Importantly, the changes mean that landlords will no longer be able to guarantee possession at the end of an agreed term and also mean they will not be able to bring future tenancies to an end using an accelerated – or no fault – procedure. Instead, the onus will be on renters to give notice to their landlords should they wish to leave.

The majority of student accommodation for the following academic year tends to be arranged in the early months of the calendar year (January and February) which means that many student renters will be reluctant to give notice to their landlords until they can be sure they have secured future lodgings.

What does this all mean?

The Act will create a great deal of uncertainty about whether landlords will be able to provide accommodation for the Fringe – from performers, festivalgoers and students.

The end to guaranteed possession at the end of fixed-term could create huge chains of people waiting for others to move, leaving landlords unable to guarantee temporary lets during the Fringe and creating difficulty for students who wish to work and study in Edinburgh over the summer by creating a shortage of places to stay.

All in all, the changes to be introduced via the Private Housing (Tenancies)(Scotland) Act will create a situation that results in less supply and greater demand for homes, increasing costs and putting the Festival under threat.

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