Scotland relaxes incoming Airbnb rules

The Scottish government will remove measures preventing an ‘overprovision’ of short-term properties in its upcoming licencing scheme.

Housing minister Shona Robison said such powers aren’t necessary, because councils can already refuse licences on similar grounds via planning controls.

The change will mean Airbnb hosts won’t be denied a licence for having a other short-term lets nearby, unless they are in a ‘control zone’ area.

Scotland’s upcoming regulation will require all short-term lets to be licensed by 1 April 2024, while existing operators will have to apply for a license before April 2023.

Robison said: “Regulation of short-term lets is vital to balance the needs and concerns communities have raised with wider economic and tourism interests.

“Following our recent consultation and engagement with stakeholders, we are making some pragmatic and significant changes to improve the proposed legislation.

“We are therefore addressing issues raised by stakeholders whilst still allowing licensing authorities to ensure short-term lets are safe and address issues faced by neighbours.”

She added: “This means local authorities can respond to the needs and concerns of local communities and neighbours to short-term lets without imposing onerous bureaucracy on responsible tourism businesses.

“I am grateful to those stakeholders who have taken part in the consultation. I look forward to continuing to work constructively with the tourism sector and councils to finalise and implement the licensing scheme effectively.”

In February the Scottish Parliament passed legislation designed to make it easier for local authorities to manage the short-term letting market, allowing councils to establish ‘control zones’, requiring any property operating as a short-term let for 28 days to get planning consent.

The development of the licencing scheme has been a controversial one.

Critics say fees and administration costs have been significantly underestimated, with some potentially costing thousands of pounds.

Meanwhile the Scottish Land & Estates association has said proposals should focus on cities like Edinburgh, which contains a third of Scotland’s Airbnbs, rather than targeting rural areas that want to attract tourism.

Organisations see this relaxation of the upcoming regulation as a step in the right direction.

Airbnb responded with a statement: “We are encouraged to see the Scottish government listening to the concerns raised by Airbnb, the host community and industry partners on the impact the original measures could have on Scottish tourism.

“However, we still believe more progress should be made.

“It is vital that issues such as the proposed system’s fees and the administration burden for hosts are properly addressed and we are committed to working with the Scottish government to ensure this happens.”

Meanwhile Shomik Panda, director general of the Short Term Accommodation Associations (STAA), said: “The STAA welcomes the decision by the Scottish government to reconsider some aspects of its proposed licensing regime.

“Throughout the engagement process for these proposed regulations, which has been ongoing for a number of years, we have suggested practical and pragmatic improvements to the legislation which we believe will help to strike the right balance between protecting communities and allowing legitimate businesses to operate as they have always done.

“We believe that the changes that the Scottish government has announced today are a positive step in the right direction, although we will continue to push for further improvements for our members, including a grandfathering provision and auto-renewals of licences.

“We look forward to continued engagement in Scotland, to build the best set of regulations that we can for all.”

In August Airbnb, the Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers (ASSC), the Scottish B&B Association and the UK Short Term Accommodation Association all resigned from the Scottish government’s working group, calling it a “sham”.

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