New short-term lets legislation proposed

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On January 14th this year, St Andrews QV published an article on  growing concerns about residential properties being turned into short term lets for holidays and parties. This is a Europe-wide problem and continues to expand worldwide. Holiday destinations including large cities such as Edinburgh were being affected by a change in the character of residential areas, and Airbnb type lets are becoming a particular problem in some North East Fife communities. The QV article noted that the Scottish Government was preparing legislation to regulate this business, and legislation was being prepared.. This legislation has now been implemented and will take effect from April 2021.

Planning Lawyer John Watchman of John Watchman and Co., has contributed the following article on the new legislation:

Proposed short-term accommodation regulation

The Scottish Government has set a 16 October 2020 deadline for comments on its recently published proposals about local authority regulation of short-term letting of accommodation in Scotland.[1] Those proposals are outlined below.

‘Short-term let’ accommodation

A ‘short-term let’ is the provision of accommodation to at least one guest (not being the father, mother, brother, sister, son or daughter of the host or the host’s household) to reside at all or part of a house flat or serviced apartment (but not a hotel, boarding house, guesthouse or hostel) which is not a guest’s only or principal home and which is for a commercial consideration (that is for money or benefit in kind to the host, such as a service or reciprocal use of a property).

It includes lets for work and leisure purposes and lets where the accommodation provided is a bed in a bedroom shared with other guests or a sofa bed in a living room. It does not include ‘unconventional’ accommodation such as caravans, pods and mobile dwellings such as canal boats.

‘Short-term let control area’

The process for establishing a short-term letting control area will be similar to that for the designation of a conservation area. Within such a control area the use of a dwellinghouse for the letting of a room or rooms or the entire property where the host does not normally live will require planning permission. Outside such an area whether planning permission is required will be determined on a case-by-case basis.

Licensing of short-term letting accommodation

All short-term letting accommodation – whether or not it is the only or principal home of the host – must be licensed by a local authority.

Local authorities may introduce a licensing scheme from 1 April 2021 and all those authorities must be able to receive licensing applications by 1 April 2022. All short-term letting hosts must be licensed by 31 March 2024. Local authorities will maintain a public register of short-term let hosts and short-term accommodation.

An applicant must be a fit and proper person and the short-term accommodation must meet specified standards. An applicant must incur the expenditure necessary to bring the property up to standard before submitting the licence application, that is before knowing whether the application will be successful.

Licensing fees will be set by local authorities. The overall revenue from all fees should cover all establishment and running costs of the authority’s licensing scheme. The Scottish Government will not set fees but intends to specify the limits for the licensing fee regime.

Relationship between short-term lets and other forms of letting

Short-term lets and tenancies under the Private Housing (Tenancies) Scotland 2016 will be mutually exclusive.

House in Multiple Occupation (‘HMO’) licensing and short-term let licensing will be kept separate. A short-term let licence will be required even if the host and the accommodation already have an HMO licence. There will be no requirement for anyone applying for a short-term let licence to also apply for an HMO licence, even if the circumstances would otherwise require one.


Offences will include operating a short-term let without a licence for which the proposed maximum fine is £50,000 and failing to comply with a licence condition for which the proposed maximum fine is £10,000.


The proposed licence regime will be introduced in around 6-18 months. Those proposing to rent homes or rooms within homes during summer holidays or for events like the 150th Open to be held in St Andrews in July 2022 may wish to comment on the Scottish Government’s consultation and to monitor the outcome of that consultation.


The Consultation will end on the 16th October

St Andrews QV (Qui Vive) is an independent not-for-profit, non-political platform for news and debates about issues that are important to the Town. It exists to hold decision makers and public services to account while its editorial policy is to accommodate all shades of opinion from all parts of the community, prioritising evidence-based arguments. St Andrews QV is a member of the Independent Community News Network and is committed to the Community Journalism Charter

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