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Scotland moves ahead with short-let licensing

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All short-term lets will require a licence under proposed legislation outlined by the Scottish Government this week.

Its consultation document Short Term Lets Consultation on a licensing scheme and planning control areas in Scotland, is the latest in a process that started in April last year aimed at controlling the growing number of Airbnb and similar lets. New regulations, which are subject to Scottish Parliament approval, are set to come into force by April 2021.

Three aims are identified as the principal purpose of the proposed new requirements: safety, control and taxation of profits.

Licensing will ensure short-term lets are safe and address issues faced by neighbours, said the Scottish Government. The changes will also give local authorities greater powers, allowing them to control short-term letting in their areas, and to restrict or prevent short-term lets in inappropriate places or types of building. Tax rules will make sure short-term lets make an ‘appropriate contribution’ to local communities and support local services.

‘Short-term lets can offer people a flexible and affordable accommodation option, and they have contributed positively to Scotland’s tourism industry and local economies across the country’, said Housing Minister Kevin Stewart when announcing the month-long consultation.

‘However, we know that in certain areas, particularly tourist hot spots, high numbers of these arrangements can cause problems for neighbours and make it harder for people to find homes to live in.

‘I believe our proposals for a licensing scheme and short-term let control areas are evidence-based and right for Scottish circumstances’.

Under the proposals, ‘short-term lets’ are to be defined as those lets which meet five criteria. These are that:

  • The let is residential;
  • The accommodation provided is all or part of a house or flat or serviced apartment;
  • The let is temporary in that the accommodation is not to become guests’ only or principal home;
  • The let is paid for; and
  • None of the guests are members of the same immediate family as the host or host’s household.

All short-term lets will require a licence, irrespective of the number of nights per year the accommodation is made available.

Licence conditions will include compliance with safety standards similar to those required in other rented accommodation. In addition, local authorities may add further stipulations ‘to address local needs and concerns’.

Local authorities will also be able to use ‘control area’ regulations to manage and restrict high concentrations of short-term lets and those in places and  types of building deemed inappropriate.

In these areas change of use planning permission would be required to operate a short-term let.

The consultation document is open for comment until Friday 16 October 2020. Responses should be made using the Scottish Government’s consultation hub, Citizen Space.