Short-term let accommodation is a vital source of income for many in the rural sector with farm cottages, glamping pods, wooden lodges, huts and yurts often providing rural business with additional diversified income from holiday letting activities. With the option of foreign holidays all but ruled out for many for the duration of the pandemic, this type of accommodation is now more so than ever an attractive holiday option for those staying closer to home.
The Scottish Government recently passed, and shortly afterwards withdrew, regulations which could have costly consequences for those providing such short-term let accommodation. The regulations were designed to tackle issues faced primarily by those in urban areas such as Edinburgh city centre where residents have expressed concern about the impact of short-term lets in their communities citing noise nuisance, anti-social behaviour and a loss of residential housing stock. Whilst those issues appear to cause much less concern in rural areas, the new regulations will catch all types of short-term lets to include those which were perhaps not the intended target of the new regulations.
The planned legislation was withdrawn to allow for draft guidance on the regulations to be developed after concerns were raised by MSPs and residents across Scotland. Although the legislation has been withdrawn for the time being, the Scottish Government intends to re-lay the legislation before parliament in June accompanied by the draft guidance so as to ensure the timetable on introducing the licensing scheme remains the same as was laid out initially.
The Scottish Government’s proposal for licensing short-term lets under the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 originally imposed a number of new obligations as follows:
- Accommodation providers will have until April 2023 to apply for a license with some exclusions being made for hotels, guest houses and hostels. As it stands, this obligation is unaffected by the withdrawal of the legislation. Local authorities will still have until 1 April 2022 to establish a scheme tailored to their local needs, existing hosts will have until 1 April 2023 to apply and all hosts providing short-term let accommodation in Scotland are to be licensed by 1 April 2024.
- Self-caterers, B&Bs and other accommodation providers will have to pay licensing fees, and potentially also monitoring fees.
- B&Bs will be required to meet repairing standards and Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) regulations from which they were previously exempt.
- Unconventional accommodation such as huts, yurts, lodges and chalets will be subject to regulations such as EPCs.
- Planning authorities can grant designations of Short-Term Let Control Areas under powers in the Planning (Scotland) Act 2019.
Whilst some will welcome the regulations and tightening of the rules governing short-term lets, for rural businesses the timing of these new obligations and related costs to be incurred may come after what has already been a challenging year. We will watch with interest the final outcome of the further review.
If your rural business is set to be affected by the new short-term let regulations please get in touch with the Blackadders Rural Team working across Scotland in Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow.
Ross Purdie, Trainee Solicitor
Rural Land & Business
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