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Published on Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Scotland's housing minister asked for more details on short lets legislation


The UK Short Term Accommodation Association and Association of Scotland's Self-Caterers have written to housing minister Kevin Stewart following news that the Scottish government is to allow local authorities to introduce a licensing scheme for short term lets from spring of 2021.

Stewart said such schemes would allow councils to know and understand what is happening in their area, improve safety and assist with the effective handling of complaints.

In a joint letter, the UKSTAA and the Association of Scotland's Self-Caterers asked for further clarity on five key points. These are: 

  • A clear definition of what is short-term letting activity 
  • The proposed licensing regime including the criteria, the proposed duration of licences, the administrative processes that operators will need to follow, and the associated guidance that must ensure consistency and proportionality across Scotland.
  • The costs of the licensing and planning permission system - ensuring that these are truly proportionate to the costs of administration, and set at a level that does not unduly burden those who are renting very infrequently, or that layers further expense on established businesses who are already making a contribution to local authorities.
  • How control zones will be defined - what evidence will be needed to justify their introduction, and how they will be reviewed, and what policy responses to those zones are appropriate and proportionate.
  • The interplay between regulation and taxation - recognising the potential of the STR sector as a source of tax revenue for the Government, while also acknowledging that unduly restrictive regulation of the sector may discourage activity, leading to a reduction in tax revenues. Further analysis is needed to ensure that interventions like changes to business rates and new tourist levies and taxes do not result in unintended outcomes.

The letter to Stewart added:  "We believe that constructive dialogue between the industry, government and local communities can result in regulations that balance the needs of residents and support tourism, one of Scotland's most important industries."

In announcing the new legislation earlier this month, 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."

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