Conservatives to force licensing scheme vote in Scotland

Scotland: The Scottish Conservative & Unionist Party wants to hold a debate and force a vote on a national short-term let licensing scheme ahead of a deadline on 1 October.

The deadline had already been extended for hosts to apply for licences until 1 October to hold more consultation on the matter. However, Scottish National Party [SNP] leader Humza Yousaf, who became First Minister in March, has already ruled out a second extension to the deadline.

The scheme will apply to bed & breakfasts [B&Bs], guest houses and self-catering properties, though hotels will not be covered by the proposed regulation.

As a result, hosts will need to apply for a licence in order to rent out a room or an entire property, and could be liable to fines of up to £2,500 if they do not comply. They will also be required to display energy performance [EPC] ratings and proof that they comply with fire and gas safety precautions on any listings, have adequate buildings, and be covered by public liability insurance.

A report released last week by Edinburgh City Council said that the capital city could see an 80 per cent collapse in Airbnbs and other short-term let listings if the new regulations come into effect.

In response to Yousaf’s refusal to extend the deadline further, Scottish Conservatives leader Douglas Ross called the decision “bitterly disappointing”, adding that many short-term let businesses would have little option but to close down.

Speaking at Edinburgh’s Apex Hotel on Tuesday, Ross said that the opposition party was planning to hold a debate on future delays and force through a vote that would delay the introduction of the new regulations on 1 October.

Fiona Campbell, chief executive of the Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers [ASSC], said that the Scottish Government had been “forcing people, under legal duress, to apply for these schemes” and urged the Conservatives to take action to support anxious hosts and property owners.

Though Yousaf is adamant that the deadline will not be extended any longer, he acknowledged the concerns from figures within the self-catering sector, saying that the SNP would “continue to engage” on the matter in Scotland.

Concerns have been voiced by the sector following the staging of the world-renowned annual Edinburgh Fringe Festival, which takes place every August and attracts visitors from around the world – many of whom choose to stay in self-catering properties.

In April, it was revealed that the Scottish Government and COSLA [The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities] were looking to introduce plans to charge double the full rate of council tax for second homes in Scotland, starting from April 2024. The proposed change went to a 12-week consultation period until July.

Elsewhere, a number of emirates in the United Arab Emirates [UAE] already require holiday home owners to obtain licences to continue trading. Meanwhile, Portugal put an end to its contentious ‘golden visa’ scheme and introduced a ban on new licences for short-term rentals as part of a €900 million package of measures designed to alleviate the country’s housing crisis in February.

In New York, new regulations are set to come into force on 5 September which will require hosts to register with a local agency in a bid to crack down on listings operating illegally. Last month, a state Supreme Court judge dismissed a lawsuit brought by Airbnb against New York City over what it called “extreme and oppressive” restrictions and a “de facto ban” against its short-term rental operations in the city.