Trade body: Scotland needs to split Airbnbs into ‘amateur’ and ‘commercial’



The Scottish government needs to draw a divide between second homes people sometimes live in and those being let commercially, the UK Short Term Accommodation Association has urged.

The association responded to Scottish housing minister Shona Robison’s revisions to the upcoming licensing scheme, which will mean Airbnb hosts won’t be denied a licence for having other short-term lets nearby, unless they are in a ‘control zone’ area.

But the Short Term Association (STAA) feels other changes need to be made.

It said: “The STAA is concerned that the existing home sharing, home letting and secondary letting typology being used will leave thousands of legitimate second homes vulnerable to being captured within the new short-term let control zones.

“It argues that many people across Scotland will have second homes for a range of legitimate reasons and will be unable to ever let these homes out on the long-term rental market as they live in these homes for some portion of the year.

“Therefore, taking them off the short-term rental market will not contribute meaningfully to reducing housing pressure in certain parts of the country. Rather, it will result in more homes lying empty during the year, the very opposite of what the Scottish government wants to achieve.

“The STAA suggests moving towards a system which makes distinctions between amateur and
commercial activity, using the existing non-domestic rates system as a threshold, where properties which qualify for non-domestic rates would be subject to planning controls in short-term let control zones and those paying Council Tax would not, irrespective of whether they are a main residence or a second home.

“The advantage of this system is that it will impose controls on genuine businesses and will not penalise second homeowners who would not otherwise be letting their properties on the long-let market.”

This was one of three recommendations made by the association.

The others were the ‘grandfathering of existing properties into the licensing system’, meaning existing businesses who conduct short-term rental activity should automatically be given a license provided that they comply with the mandatory safety standards and pay afee.

Thirdly ‘ensure that the criteria under which local authorities consider applications for short-term let control zone status are robust’.

The association called on the Scottish government to take the merits of each proposal for a control zone into consideration when making these decisions, citing the City of Edinburgh Council’s recent proposal to designate the whole of the city for a control zone as a good example of an application which does not stand up to scrutiny.

It added that short-term lets make up a very small proportion of the total housing stock in outer wards and that there have been almost no anti-social behaviour complaints about short-term rentals in some wards during the last five years.

Shomik Panda, director general of the STAA, said, “We are happy with the sensible and practical amendments made to the original licensing order and are keen to work constructively with the Scottish government on this issue.

“Further amendments need to be made to make the new system work for existing businesses. We believe that the three amendments we have identified for will help make the new system work as well as possible for existing short-term letting hosts and property managers.”

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