Scotland short-term lets: government moves deadline to apply for application back by six months

A new Scottish Government initiative to crack down on short term lets in cities such as Edinburgh will see property owners have to apply for a short-term let application

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The Scottish government has delayed the deadline for property owners to apply for a short-term let by six months. The new scheme is aiming to crack down on the amount of residential holiday properties in popular tourist areas such as Edinburgh.

Under the initiative, hosts will be forced to obtain an application in order to run their property as a short-term let. The deadline for obtaining this had been set for 31 March 2023, however this has now been moved to 30 September 2023.

The Scottish government introduced the new measure as Airbnb-style accommodations put pressure on housing and facilities within local communities. It has been met with a mixed reaction, with housing activists welcoming the move while the tourism and hospitality industry raised concerns.

Short-term lets are popular accommodations for tourists and are particularly prominent in places such as the Highlands and Edinburgh. Events such as the Edinburgh Fringe Festival sees a high number of visitors to the capital, with pressure on hotels and city facilities during this time. The Scottish government says that the decision to delay the deadline is due to the cost-of-living crisis.

What is the new short-term let scheme in Scotland?

The scheme was introduced after residents voiced concerns of the impact short-term lets have on the local community. This includes issues such as anti-social behaviour, noise complaints as well as overcrowding.

Those looking to host their property as a short-term let must obtain the new licence by 30 September 2023. If they do not, a £2,500 fine can be imposed, and the property cannot operate as a short-term let without the licence.

The classification of a ‘short-term let’ will apply to accommodations such as B&Bs, guest houses and self-catering accommodation. This also includes properties such as cabins and chalets.

Local councils will be responsible for setting the requirements and licence fees for  short-term let properties in their areas. Scottish Housing Secretary Shona Robison previously said: "We recognise the important role short-term lets play as a source of flexible and responsive accommodation for tourists and workers, which brings many benefits to hosts, visitors and our economy.

"However, when this work started in 2018 it was in response to the significant concerns of residents and communities across Scotland... about the impact that short term lets were having on their areas, including on local housing supply, noise and antisocial behaviour.

Speaking of the new deadline date, Robison added: "This is a one-off six month extension, which recognises the wider economic circumstances of the cost-of-living crisis that is placing pressure on existing short-term let hosts and businesses.

"This is not a pause and we encourage hosts to continue to apply throughout this period. It will not make any changes in our primary aim of ensuring all short-term lets across Scotland meet consistent safety standards and are provided by fit and proper people."

Alongside the new application scheme, new powers have been given to local authorities to deal with short-term stays. This includes Edinburgh, which recently introduced limits on new Airbnb-style accommodations popping up in the city.

What has been the reaction to the short-term let restrictions?

The scheme has been welcomed by local communities, who have been seeking additional restrictions for as-yet unregulated short-term stays. Tenants union Living Rent spoke specifically on Edinburgh’s plans.

Speaking to Edinburgh Evening News, Mike Williamson from Living Rent Edinburgh said: “The council’s guidance is a welcome step in the right direction for Edinburgh’s tenants. Now is a real opportunity for the council to act in the interests of the city’s residents and take measures to reduce the 10,000 holiday lets in Edinburgh, each one of which could and should be a home.”

However, other individuals and organisations have criticised the crackdown, claiming that it will have a huge impact on tourism and hospitality in popular areas.

Fiona Campbell, chief executive of the Association of Self-Caterers, did welcome the delay to the application deadline, but the association has urged the Scottish government to work closely with local businesses to reduce the negative impact on them.

She said: “The ASSC welcomes this announcement by the Scottish Government and we are pleased our hard work, as well as the efforts from our friends across the Scottish tourism industry, has resulted in this development. The ASSC has been pressing hard for a pause to the implementation of the scheme due to the cost-of-living crisis so it’s good to know our voices are being heard.

“Our ongoing concern, however, is that it is not long enough to give our members the breathing space they need to get their licence applications approved in the current climate. We do see this as progress and we will continue to push forward on behalf of our members, we know there’s lots of work still to do.”

The Scottish Government has previously said that it will work in tandem with short-term let organisations to introduce the scheme effectively. This includes Airbnb, and the ASSC.