“Pragmatic and significant” changes to the planned licensing scheme for short-term rental properties have been announced by the Scottish Government.
In a letter to Holyrood’s Local Government, Housing & Planning Committee, Housing Secretary Shona Robison confirmed that she had decided to make a number of simplifications to the proposed Licensing Order, which has been criticised for its complexity and as putting parts of the hospitality sector at a competitive disadvantage.
Among the changes, regulations designed to prevent an “overprovision” of Airbnb-style properties will be removed from the scheme. Ms Robison now considers that the powers being given to local council areas to establish control areas can be used to prevent too many short-term lets from being set up in any given location.
The rules for neighbour notification will be brought into line with other civic government licensing applications, and applicants' names will not need to be shown in the public register of short-term lets.
In response to a representation from the Law Society of Scotland, appeal will be available against the grant or refusal of a temporary exemption.
Public liability insurance requirements will be reduced, and guidance will support a more focused inspection regime, reducing the cost to local authorities. At the same time Ms Robison is considering issuing tighter guidance as regards the fees to be charged.
In order to “facilitate responsible home sharing”, including bed and breakfast provision, fire and electrical safety are being reviewed to ensure they do not go further than existing law.
Currently councils will have until October 2022 to set up a licensing scheme, with all short-term lets licensed by April 2024.
Ms Robison stressed that licensing authorities would still be required to “ensure short-term lets are safe and address issues faced by neighbours”, but the changes would enable them to “respond to the needs and concerns of local communities and neighbours to short-term lets without imposing onerous bureaucracy on responsible tourism businesses”.
Hospitality interests welcomed the changes while suggesting that they could go further to achieve parity for all tourism accommodation providers.
A survey consultation by the Holyrood committee on the Scottish Government's proposals is running until 29 October.