Illegal Airbnb hosts could face fines of £ 50,000 if crackdown

Landlords who don’t get a license for Airbnb-style short-term rentals could be fined up to £ 50,000 under new rules to be put in place in April.

The Scottish Government will present plans to require all landlords operating properties as short-term rentals to obtain a license from local authorities – but authorities have banned setting a 90-day cap for when properties can operate in as such and some may be able to operate without a license until March 2024.

Due to the Covid-19 crisis, the Scottish government can only consult the public until October, with legislation due to be submitted to Holyrood in December.

The Scottish government had suspended licensing plans due to the pandemic, but the Herald revealed in July that the proposals had been put back on track.

READ MORE: Scottish government to speed up laws to crack down on Airbnb-style short-term rentals

Housing Minister Kevin Stewart stressed that an initial consultation in 2019 “showed broad consensus for some form of regulation.”

He said: “Short term rentals can provide people with a flexible and affordable accommodation option and they have positively contributed to the Scottish tourism industry and local economies across the country.

“However, we know that in some areas, especially tourist hot spots, a high number of these arrangements can cause problems for neighbors and make it more difficult for people to find accommodation.

“The views and evidence from our previous consultations and research have shown a broad consensus for some form of regulation. Our proposals will enable local authorities and communities facing the most severe pressures to take steps to manage them more effectively from next year. ”

He added: ‘I think our proposals for a licensing system and short-term rental control areas are evidence-based and tailored to Scottish circumstances.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Edinburgh‘s Airbnb apartments help tackle homelessness crisis

“We will be discussing our detailed proposals with stakeholders over the next four weeks. I am convinced that our proposals will allow local authorities to ensure a safe and quality experience for visitors, while protecting the interests of local communities.

Scottish government research found that as of May 2019, there were just under 31,900 active listings on Airbnb, with around 22,000 involving entire properties and the rest largely consisting of private rooms.

The main purpose of introducing authorization rules is to ensure that properties meet health and safety standards.

Separate plans allowing municipalities to set up “control zones” will allow authorities to “manage high concentrations” of short-term rentals and the ability to “restrict or prevent short-term rentals in locations or types. of buildings where it is not suitable ”.

Edinburgh City Council has previously stressed that it wants to restrict short-term rentals in apartments with shared stairs, due to concerns over anti-social behavior and noise.

But officials warned that “a control zone does not prohibit secondary rental indoors, it simply requires a building permit.”

READ MORE: Council to take over short-term rentals in capital and use them as homeless housing

The rules are expected to be implemented from April 1, 2021, but boards should have the power to “set a grace period” where no enforcement action would be taken against landlords while claims are submitted and processed.

Boards will be given a deadline to ensure license applications can be submitted by April 1, 2022. With grace periods in place, “all hosts in Scotland must be authorized by March 31, 2024” .

The Scottish Government should allow those operating without a license to face a fine of up to £ 50,000, while owners who fail to comply with a condition of license could be fined up to £ 50,000. ‘to £ 10,000 – with conditions including a limit on the number of guests staying at the property.

Temporary authorizations of up to 28 days may be granted by local councils.

Scottish Greens for Housing spokesman Andy Wightman said “this action on the regulation of short-term rentals is long overdue but welcome nonetheless”.

He added: “Today’s consultation document is a comprehensive and detailed outline of what will be required. I welcome, for example, the proposal that online hosting platforms might have to display license numbers and that planning consent will be a mandatory condition for a license.

“However, given that we now know that the vast majority of short-term rented properties – in Edinburgh at least – are operating illegally, there needs to be a commitment to open data and resources to enable regulatory enforcement and oversight. conformity. .

“I also note that the commitment made in January to review the tax treatment of short-term rentals is missing from this consultation. I hope this can be rectified quickly.

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