Short-term lets consultation finds support for regulation

A consultation on short-term lets found wide support for regulation, according to independent analysis published today.

More than 1,000 responses from communities, landlords and businesses raised a number of concerns about the effects of short-term lets, including anti-social behaviour, safety fears and the impact on the housing market.

The Scottish Government is considering the analysis of responses to the consultation, which also highlighted the economic benefits brought by short-term lets, and will the evidence to inform policy proposals to be announced later this year.

There is also an understanding that issues vary across the country, with different problems in most rural settings compared to places like Edinburgh, where there is the highest concentration of short-term lets.

These findings are confirmed by the conclusions of independent research on the impact of short-term lets on communities, also published today.

Housing minister Kevin Stewart said: “Short-term lets can offer people a flexible and cheaper travel option, and have contributed positively to Scotland’s tourism industry and local economies across the country.

“However, we know that in certain areas, particularly tourist hot spots, high numbers of short-term lets are causing problems and often making it harder for people to find homes to live in.

“The responses to our consultation confirm support for new controls over short-term letting of residential properties in these problem areas.

“We will carefully consider the evidence before setting out our proposals later this year. In the meantime we will continue to work with local authorities to support them to balance the unique needs of their communities with wider economic and tourism interests.”

There is currently no statutory definition of what constitutes a short-term let, such as Airbnb, in Scotland. For a short-term let to take place, a host offers accommodation to one or more guests. Where a property is available for let for 140 days or more in the financial year, it is classified as self-catering holiday accommodation, exempt from Council Tax, and becomes instead liable for non-domestic rates.

The consultation on the regulation of short-term lets ran from 28 April to 23 July 2019, and received more than 1,000 responses from residents, landlords, businesses, local authorities and other organisations. An independent analysis of the responses was commissioned from Why Research.

Scottish Green housing and communities spokesperson, Andy Wightman, said: “The summary of responses to the Scottish Government’s consultation published today does not provide any new information.

“It is a long-established fact that there are differences in opinion between hosts and residents affected by short term lets about how these should be regulated. Obviously, hosts and companies associated with providing services believe there should be less regulation, but we can already see what damage a deregulated market can do.

“I am pleased that the residents who responded to the consultation were broadly agreed that more regulation is needed and that those who own these properties should be held accountable, but the SNP teamed up with the Tories and yielded to industry lobbyists in the face of my proposals. Now is the time for the Scottish Government to make some serious progress on this issue.”

Scottish Labour’s housing spokesperson Pauline McNeill MSP added: “While it is true that short term lets such as AirBnBs can increase tourism and boost the economy in certain areas, it is vital it is not at the expense of full time residents’ quality of life. The consultation responses and research published today present a compelling case for the regulation of short-term lets.  

“Scottish Labour supports a change to planning law to ensure that properties being let as short-term lets, which are not the owner’s sole residence, require planning permission. This would facilitate the regulation so badly needed. This change could have happened in June as part of the Planning Bill, but the SNP and Tories teamed up to block it.

“We are proud of Scotland’s place in the world as a thriving tourist destination, but Scottish Labour also recognises the downside of too many short term let properties condensed in residential areas.

“It is time local authorities had the power to determine when a home has changed use so they can regulate short term lets and find a balanced position in their community’s interest.”

Tags: PRS

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