Airbnb: Scottish government amends short-term rental licenses

Housing Secretary Shona Robison has announced a number of “pragmatic and significant” changes to the planned licensing regime for short-term rental properties.

As part of this, regulations designed to prevent “overprovisioning” of Airbnb-style properties should be dropped from the program.

Ms Robison insisted this was unnecessary as the powers given to local council areas to establish control areas could be used to prevent too many short-term rentals being put in place at a given place.

In a letter to MSPs from the Holyrood Local Government, Housing and Planning Committee, the Housing Secretary said that ‘one of the main purposes of control areas is to help manage high concentrations of secondary tenancies – adding that these could be used where the availability of residential housing or the character of a neighborhood has been impacted.

Other changes will see a simplification of the way neighbors are notified of license applications, as well as the removal of personal names from the public register of short-term rentals.

The Scottish government has announced plans for the licensing scheme amid concerns over the growth of Airbnb-style rentals in popular tourist areas such as Edinburgh.

As the proposals stand, councils will have until October 2022 to put a licensing system in place, with all short-term rentals permitted by April 2024.

Ms Robison stressed that regulating short-term rentals was “vital in balancing the needs and concerns raised by communities with broader economic and tourism interests”.

She added that following a recent consultation with the sector, ministers were “making pragmatic and meaningful changes to improve the proposed legislation”.

She stressed that licensing authorities would still be required to “ensure that short-term rentals are safe and resolve any problems encountered by neighbours”.

Ms Robison continued: ‘This means local authorities can respond to the needs and concerns of local communities and neighbors with short-term rentals without imposing onerous bureaucracy on responsible tourism businesses.’

Leon Thompson, Scotland’s director of UKHopsitality, said the changes to the proposed licensing system “bring us closer to introducing parity for all tourist accommodation providers in Scotland”.

He added: “UKHospitality Scotland has always called for the introduction of licensing for short-term rentals in order to achieve a level playing field.

“This is to ensure that our members are not continued to be financially and competitively disadvantaged by the expanding rental market.”

However, Airbnb bosses said more changes could still be made.

In a statement, he said: “We are encouraged to see the Scottish Government listening to the concerns raised by Airbnb, the host community and industry partners about the impact the initial measures could have on Scottish tourism.

“However, we still believe that further progress needs to be made.

“It is essential that issues such as the proposed system fee and administrative burden for hosts are properly addressed and we are committed to working with the Scottish Government to ensure this happens.”

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