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Trade bodies seek further clarity on new short-term letting regulations

The minister for local government, housing and planning in Scotland, Kevin Stewart, has received a joint letter from the UK Short Term Accommodation Association (UKSTAA) and Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers (ASSC) ahead of new plans to regulate short-term lets north of the border.

Earlier this month, the Scottish government announced fresh measures to regulate short-term lets by handing local authorities new powers to introduce a licensing scheme from spring 2021. 

The aim, according to the government, is to enable councils to know and understand what is happening in their area, improve safety and assist with the effective handing of complaints.

The licensing scheme will include a new mandatory safety requirement that will cover every type of short-term let to ensure a safe, quality experience for visitors. 

Councils will also be able to designate control areas to ensure that planning permission will always be required for the change of use of whole properties for short-term lets, while ministers have committed to carefully and urgently consider how short-term lets will be taxed in the future. 

There are five key point that both associations requested further clarity on:

 + A clear definition of what is, and what is not short-term letting activity – so that boundaries are clear for those operating in the short-term and long-term rental sectors, and we can properly understand the target of these regulations.

+ The proposed licensing regime – more details are needed on the criteria, the proposed duration of licences, the administrative processes that operators will need to follow, and the associated guidance that must ensure consistency and proportionality across Scotland.

+ The costs of the licensing and planning permission system – ensuring that these are truly proportionate to the costs of administration, and set at a level that does not unduly burden those who are renting very infrequently, or that layers further expense on established businesses who are already making a contribution to local authorities.

+ How control zones will be defined – what evidence will be needed to justify their introduction, and how they will be reviewed, and what policy responses to those zones are appropriate and proportionate.

+ The interplay between regulation and taxation – recognising the potential of the STR sector as a source of tax revenue for the Government, while also acknowledging that unduly restrictive regulation of the sector may discourage activity, leading to a reduction in tax revenues. Further analysis is needed to ensure that interventions like changes to business rates and new tourist levies and taxes do not result in unintended outcomes.

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