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‘Majority’ agree Scottish short-term lets regulation required

Image credit: Yui Mok/PA

‘Majority’ agree Scottish short-term lets regulation required

A ‘majority’ of Scots believe a short-term letting regulatory framework should be implemented to govern accommodation listed on websites like Airbnb, a Scottish Government short-term lets consultation analysis has found.

However, respondents to the consultation are split on what that framework would look like.

“Overall, a majority of respondents supported regulation for short-term lets in some form,” the paper said.

“Views were mixed as to whether there should be registration or licensing for short-term lets, although there was a degree of support for both elements to be introduced, with some support for a mandatory rather than a voluntary scheme. There was little support for a market-based mechanism.

“Regardless of whatever regulation is introduced, a common theme was of the need for enforcement to be undertaken; and to be undertaken quickly where there is noncompliance. There were also a number of comments that local authorities will need additional resources to apply and enforce any regulation.”

The paper analysed more than 1,000 responses, received between April 28 and July 23 2019 from communities, landlords and businesses. The respondents raised concerns around the effects of short-term letting, including anti-social behaviour, safety fears and its impact on the housing market.

There is currently no statutory definition of what constitutes a short-term let in Scotland.

The government said it would consider the analysis, and the evidence would be used to inform policy proposals “to be announced later this year”.

“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,” Housing Minister Kevin Stewart said.

“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.”

The government also released independent research on the impact of short-term lets on communities. The research found, as of May 2019, there were 31,884 Airbnb listings across Scotland, with short-term lets growing “three-fold” in Scotland since April 2016 when there were less than 10,600 listings.

It also revealed that just over half (50.5 per cent) of all Airbnbs in Scotland were located in either Edinburgh or the Highlands. Edinburgh had the highest number of Airbnb listings in the country, with 31.38 per cent of Scotland’s total, recording 9,994 lettings as of May 2019.

Private landlords told researchers: “they had made the choice to move from long-term lets to STLs [short-term lets] due to the increased regulation and their requirement for flexibility.

“Many businesses compared the STLs sector to the long-term rented sector where there is a requirement for landlord registration and compliance with health and safety standards, and where regulation has recently increased including a new tenancy regime.”

Responding to the short-term letting paper, Scottish Green housing and communities spokesperson Andy Wightman said it did 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,” he said.

“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 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.”

In June, Wightman’s proposed changes to the Planning Bill were rejected by Scottish Parliament. He had proposed an amendment which would have required all short-term lets apply for council planning consent in order to change their legal status, and at the time he accused the SNP and Scottish Conservatives of striking a deal “to sabotage my amendment”.

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