The Scottish Government has announced plans to grant local authorities with new powers to regulate short-term lets, dependent on whether they believe it will be in the interest of local communities. The regulatory framework is likely to have an impact on short-term letting websites such as Airbnb. The announcement was made on 8 January by Kevin Stewart MSP, Minister for Local Government, Housing and Planning.
Local authorities will be granted the power to implement licensing schemes for short-term lets from spring 2021. The Scottish Government believes that this will enable councils to understand better what is happening in their local areas, improve safety measures, and handle complaints more efficiently.
In his statement, the Minister for Local Government, Housing and Planning highlighted that the Scottish Government will:
- Introduce licensing for short-term lets, under the Civil Government (Scotland) Act 1982, with a mandatory safety component which will apply to all short-term lets across Scotland. Local authorities will also be given the discretion to put in place further conditions; to help tackle littering or overcrowding of properties, for example
- Prioritise work to give local authorities the power to introduce short-term let control areas under powers in the Planning (Scotland) Act 2019
- Undertake a review of the tax treatment of short-term lets, to ensure they make an appropriate contribution to the communities they operate in.
Kevin Stewart commented: “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.”
The Scottish Government carried out an analysis on short-term let consultation responses from communities, landlords and businesses. Respondents raised concerns relating to anti-social behaviour, safety concerns, and the overall potential adverse impact on the housing market, due to lack of regulation.
Most stakeholders, including Airbnb, agreed that regulations should be enforced on short-term lets. However, Airbnb spoke out to clarify how the cost of licensing would impact families who rely on earnings from letting out their bedrooms or properties.
An Airbnb spokesperson commented: “We want to work with the Scottish Government and local authorities on clear and simple guidance for hosts.”
"Together we can help locals share their homes and follow the rules, and avoid a system that excludes working families through fees, barriers and bureaucracy.”
Founder of Landlord Action, Paul Shamplina, commented “Airbnb has had a positive impact on short-term lets, allowing many homeowners to pay their bills and gain some earnings from their properties. However, it has also caused issues due to some tenants subletting without their landlord’s consent.”
“It seems that Scotland has taken the lead ahead of England in regulating the short-term lets industry. It will only be a matter of time before regulations are enforced in England.”
“It will be interesting to see how local councils make use of their new powers when the enforcement comes into effect in 2021.”