Councils given new powers in crackdown on short-term lets

Housing minister Kevin Stewart announced measures, which will provide local authorities with the ability to introduce a licensing scheme for short-term lets.

Councils will be given new powers to regulate short-term lets – such as Airbnbs – where they decide it is in the interests of communities.

Housing minister Kevin Stewart announced measures in the Scottish Parliament, which will provide local authorities with the ability to introduce a licensing scheme for short-term lets from spring 2021.

The Scottish Government believes it will enable councils to know and understanding what is happening in their area, improve safety and assist with complaint handling.

The licensing scheme will include a new mandatory safety requirement that will cover every type of short-term let.

It will also give councils the discretion to apply further conditions to address the concerns of local residents.

Councils will be able to designate control areas to ensure that planning permission will always be required for the change of use of whole properties for short-term lets.

Additionally, ministers have committed to carefully and urgently consider how short-term lets will be taxed in the future to ensure they make an appropriate contribution to communities and support local services.

Mr Stewart said: “Short-term lets can offer people a flexible travel option and have contributed positively to Scotland’s tourism industry and local economies across the country.

“However, we know that in certain areas, particularly tourist hot spots, high numbers of short-term lets are causing problems and often make it harder for people to find homes to live in.

“That is why we are empowering local authorities to implement a system that works for their area.

“By giving councils the power to set conditions around short-term lets licences and put in place planning control areas to tackle hot spots, communities across Scotland will be able to decide what is best for them and their local economy.

“Everybody wants visitors, hosts, neighbours and local residents to be safe. That is why the licensing scheme includes a safety element which will be mandatory across Scotland for all short-term lets.

“Separately, local authorities will be given discretion to include further conditions to help tackle littering or overcrowding of properties.

“These powers will allow local authorities to ensure a safe, quality experience for visitors, whilst protecting the interests of local communities.”

Graeme Brown, director of Shelter Scotland, welcomed the move and believes it will help tackle “unregulated growth” of short-term lets.

He said: “Airbnb-style short-term lets are an important part of making Scotland an attractive place to visit.

“However, the unregulated growth has led to too many people being locked out of homes that could be let privately to help tackle Scotland’s housing emergency.

“Today’s announcement is a welcome first step. Licencing, taxation and limits are the right and proportionate response.

“The test will be if communities in places like Edinburgh and Skye see real change and real opportunities to find the homes they need.

“Scotland has an acute housing emergency and, while these powers on their own won’t solve that emergency, they will help protect communities and ensure that local housing needs are better met.”

An Airbnb spokesman said: “We have long supported calls for fair regulations and a tourism tax in Scotland.

“Now we want to work with the Scottish Government and local authorities on clear and simple guidance for hosts.

“Together we can help Scottish families share their homes and follow the rules, and avoid a system that excludes working families through fees, barriers and bureaucracy.

“Our platform is an economic lifeline for countless local families and travel on Airbnb boosts the Scottish economy by almost £2m a day.” 

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