Housing secretary Shona Robison has announced a number of “pragmatic and significant” changes to the planned licensing scheme for short-term rental properties.
As part of that, regulations designed to prevent an “overprovision” of Airbnb-style properties are to be ditched from the scheme.
Robison insisted these were not needed as powers being given to local council areas to establish control areas could be used to prevent too many short-term lets from being set up in any given location.
In a letter to MSPs on Holyrood’s Local Government, Housing and Planning committee, the housing secretary said that “one of the main purposes of control areas is to help manage high concentrations of secondary letting” – adding that these could be used where the availability of residential housing or the character of a neighbourhood were impacted.
Other changes will see a simplification of the way that neighbours are notified about licence applications, as well as removing personal names from the public register of short-term lets.
The Scottish Government announced plans for the licensing scheme amid concerns about the growth of Airbnb-style rentals in popular tourist areas such as Edinburgh.
As the proposals stand, councils will have until October 2022 to set up a licensing scheme, with all short-term lets licensed by April 2024.
Robison stressed that regulation of short-term lets was “vital to balance the needs and concerns communities have raised with wider economic and tourism interests”.
She added that following a recent consultation with the sector, ministers were “making some pragmatic and significant changes to improve the proposed legislation”.
She stressed licensing authorities would still be required to “ensure short-term lets are safe and address issues faced by neighbours”.
Robison continued: “This means local authorities can respond to the needs and concerns of local communities and neighbours to short-term lets without imposing onerous bureaucracy on responsible tourism businesses.”
Leon Thompson, Scotland director for UKHopsitality, said the changes to the proposed licensing scheme “takes us a step closer to the introduction of parity for all tourism accommodation providers in Scotland”.
He added: “UKHospitality Scotland has consistently called for the introduction of licensing for short-term lets to achieve a level playing field.
“This is to ensure our members do not continue to be put at a financial and competitive disadvantaged by the expanding rental market.”
However bosses at Airbnb said more changes could still be made.
In a statement, it said: “We are encouraged to see the Scottish Government listening to the concerns raised by Airbnb, the host community and industry partners on the impact the original measures could have on Scottish tourism.
“However, we still believe more progress should be made.
“It is vital that issues such as the proposed system’s fees and the administration burden for hosts are properly addressed and we are committed to working with the Scottish Government to ensure this happens.”
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