Policy Summary: Scottish Government's draft new powers for councils to regulate short-term lets

POLICY: Short-Term Lets: Consultation on a Regulatory Framework for Scotland.

Edinburgh: debate over short-term lets
Edinburgh: debate over short-term lets

ISSUED BY: Scottish Government

ISSUE DATE: 28 April 2019

Background: The consultation document sets out the Scottish Government’s proposals for new powers for local authorities to allow them to deal with the problems associated with short-term lets. The issue has been the source of controversy in parts of Scotland, particularly Edinburgh, with politicians and campaigners arguing that the use of home-sharing services such as Airbnb has led to long-term rental properties being taken off the market and subsequent increases in rents. The proposals in the consultation aim to ensure that councils have the powers to be able to "balance the needs and concerns of their communities with wider economic and tourism interests". This consultation asks for views on what those powers should be.

Key points: From a planning perspective, the consultation document notes that, under current legislation, planning permission may be required for a change of use where a dwellinghouse is to be used for short-term lets. The key issue is whether the local authority considers that the change of use is, in planning terms, material, it says. In other words, the authority needs to take account of issues such as increased occupancy of the property, frequency of changes of occupants and the impact on local amenity and neighbours.

The document also notes that there is no definition of what constitutes a material change of use from residential to short-term letting. Whether a material change of use has occurred and whether planning permission is therefore required is a matter for the relevant planning authority to consider on a case-by-case basis, it says.

The document goes on to point out that enforcement action is a matter for the relevant planning authority, again on a case-by-case basis. Authorities, it says, particularly Edinburgh Council and Glasgow City Council, have taken effective enforcement action against unauthorised changes of use to short-term lets in a number of cases. While many of these cases have been appealed, those appeals have been unsuccessful in overturning local authorities’ decisions. There have, to date, been no successful appeals against enforcement action on unauthorised short-term lets, according to the document.

However, the consultation document says an amendment at stage two of the Planning (Scotland) Bill made by Green Party MSP Andy Wightman in November last year sought to make it unequivocal that all short-term holiday lets would require planning permission for change of use, other than where the premises being let are the owner’s sole or main residence.

The Scottish Government says it is supportive of the intention of the amendment, though believes it will require further amendments at stage three of the bill’s passage through the Scottish Parliament to ensure it integrates effectively with other aspects of planning law. The consultation is seeking comments on the government’s position.

The document can be read here.

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