Scotland’s housing minister has urged MSPs to encourage short-term let operators to sign up to a licensing scheme ahead of a Holyrood debate.
The letter from Paul McLennan states operators who fail to sign up to the scheme before the October 1 deadline could receive a £2,500 fine if they continue operating.
As of September 5, data from 27 council public registers showed 3,537 licences have been granted, while a further 3,643 are being considered.
The minister said no applications have been refused and transitional arrangements are in place to allow hosts to continue operating while they await approval.
On Wednesday, the Scottish Conservatives will use their parliamentary time to lead a debate calling for ministers to delay the scheme by a further 12 months.
Many of the concerns around the scheme exist due to the costs which are expected to be incurred as a result of applying, with hosts estimating differing amounts could be paid in individual council areas, resulting in some paying thousands.
However, McLennan’s letter tells MSPs that “councils must charge fees that are reflective of the costs incurred in processing the application and associated administration”, with average costs for a three-year licence estimated to be around £260 for home sharing of a double room and up to £520 for a secondary letter with a maximum occupancy of ten.
His letter states: “Many operators should not need to incur significant costs in complying with the mandatory safety aspects of the scheme especially if they are already running a business, which is in compliance with existing relevant legislation.”
In an appeal to MSPs, he said: “It is strongly in the interests of short-term let hosts to go through the application process as many thousands have already done.
“I hope that you will support and encourage hosts to apply, especially existing hosts that must apply by October 1 to qualify to continue operating until their licence is determined.”
Ahead of the debate, Scottish Green MSP Ariane Burgess said the scheme will help communities experiencing the impact of soaring numbers of holiday lets.
She said: “This legislation has been a long time coming, and it will make a real difference. It is a watershed moment for housing in Scotland. Everyone should have access to a warm and affordable home.
“There is, of course, a place for well-managed holiday lets. Yet, from villages in the Highlands and islands to busy tenement stairwells of our cities, homes are being crowded out by holiday lets. This is driving up prices and hollowing out our communities.
“The debate has focused a lot on the views of holiday let owners, but it is also vital that we hear from the families who are coping with increasing rents, the young people striving to get their first home and the community groups who want to see a better balance between weekly stays and more stable communities.”
However, Fiona Campbell, chief executive of the Association of Scotland’s Self Caterers (ASSC), said: “Regulating holiday lets out of existence will not lead to a flood of affordable homes on the market. In fact, it will likely lead to increased second home ownership with no commensurate economic benefit that you see with self-catering and B&Bs.”
Speaking ahead of the debate, Scottish Tory business and tourism spokesman Murdo Fraser said: “Ministers must see sense, listen to businesses and pause these destructive plans before it’s too late.
“This scheme – however well-intended some of its provisions are – is going to have huge and catastrophic unintended consequences if it goes ahead next month.
“It was designed to tackle problem city centre units, but B&Bs, guest houses and those seeking house-swap arrangements will now be hit with crippling additional costs and bureaucracy.
“There is a real danger this will destroy small businesses and have a huge knock-on impact on the wider Scottish economy.
“Ministers risk repeating the mistakes of the shambolic deposit return scheme by ignoring the stark warnings of businesses and stubbornly ploughing ahead with a fatally-flawed policy.”
More than 1,500 people in the tourism sector signed the “final plea” letter to First Minister Humza Yousaf, while some MSPs at Holyrood urged ministers to delay the regulations.