ASSC denounces “ill-considered” Scottish rental licensing proposals

UK: The Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers [ ASSC ] has denounced proposals put forward by the Scottish government to make licences from councils compulsory for properties being used for short-term lets as “onerous” and “ill-considered”.

It follows the Scottish Government’s publication of a report on short-term lets in which it reinforced its goal to tackle the growth of rentals in tourist areas such as Edinburgh and it is asking individual authorities to set the necessary requirements for granting a permit, while allowing uncapped fees to cover the costs incurred.

Through the scheme, the government wants to establish a minimum safety standard for rentals while ensuring the concerns of neighbouring communities are met and the economic and tourism benefits are effectively taken into account.

Should the legislation come into effect, hosts and operators are being warned that the proposed laws could introduce “possible changes to taxation”. MSPs will debate the proposals in early 2022 before any decision is approved, and further guidance will be issued by the government at a later date.

ASSC CEO Fiona Campbell said: “We are very disappointed that the Scottish Government are pressing ahead with these onerous and ill-considered regulations which will damage Scotland’s vital tourism sector at a time when we should be supporting small businesses to recover from Covid-19.”

A deadline has been set for October 2022 for local authorities to devise a short-term let licensing system in their areas, and all operators would then be required to apply for a licence to host guests by 1 July 2024. Existing hosts and landlords of short-term rentals would need to obtain a licence by April 2023 at the latest under the proposed Holyrood legislation.

The Scottish government first unveiled a two-stage plan to grant local authorities new powers to regulate short-term lets in their areas back in January 2020. New control zone regulations then came into force in April this year.

In June, the government opened a consultation period on the details of the short-term let licensing scheme to enhance the legislation and make it as efficient and effective as possible. The consultation period reopened in October for more evidence to be collected.

Housing Secretary Shona Robison said the proposed measures were the “next significant step” after implementing legislative measures and would ensure that councils can impose short-term let control areas.

Robison told City AM: “We have already introduced legislation allowing councils to establish short-term let control areas and manage numbers of short-term lets.

“This is the next significant step to delivering a licensing scheme that will ensure short-term lets are safe and the people providing them are suitable. We want short-term lets to continue making a positive impact on Scotland’s tourism industry and local economies while meeting the needs of local communities.

“Short-term lets can offer people a flexible travel option. However, we know that in certain areas, particularly tourist hotspots, high numbers of lets can cause problems for neighbours and make it harder for people to find homes to live in.

“The licensing scheme and control area legislation give councils the powers to take action where they need to,” she added.

However, Propertymark the professional body for the property sector, said that, although it welcomed the government’s action to ensure that local authorities have appropriate regulatory powers to balance the housing needs and concerns of their communities with wider economic and tourism interests, it had missed an opportunity to tighten the definition of a short-term let to include holiday lets and to mitigate the risk of duplicate licensing requirements for HMO [house in multiple occupation] landlords.

According to Propertymark, nearly half a million properties could be left unavailable for residents looking to rent in the private rented sector, and more landlords are exiting the market to go into short-term lets due to the incoming legislative intervention.

It said: “Putting effective health and safety requirements in place to protect those seeking a short-term let will also help level the regulatory playing field across the long and short-term letting industries.”

Campbell continued: “The ASSC have always strived to ensure a balanced and proportionate approach and get a regulatory framework in place that works for all. Our proposals for a mandatory registration scheme with health and safety provisions not only have the support of business and tourism stakeholders but have cross-party political support – with the exclusion of the Scottish Greens.

“The legislation still has to be approved by parliament and we look forward to engaging with MSPs in the weeks ahead to ensure we find a solution that protects jobs and livelihoods in Scotland’s £867m self-catering sector,” she added.