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MSPs narrowly back controversial short-term let licence scheme

Sandy Gemmill/Wikimedia Commons

MSPs narrowly back controversial short-term let licence scheme

MSPs on the local government committee have narrowly voted to recommend a new licensing scheme for short-term lets.

New regulations, which provide local authorities with the power to enforce mandatory standards on properties used for short-term letting, will come into force from 1 April 2023.

But some committee members raised concern the proposals were “not fit for purpose” and there were calls for the legislation to be withdrawn.

The regulations will now go before the full parliament for final approval, after the committee voted four to three to recommend them.

SNP and Labour members backed the scheme, while Conservative MSPs and Independent MSP Andy Wightman voted against it.

The inclusion of B&Bs in the regulations was a point of contention, with members highlighting it had not initially been the intention to include them.

But local government minister Kevin Stewart said they would currently be covered by the scheme because of a difficulty with separating out definitions.

He warned not to do so would create a loophole whereby short-term let owners could falsely claim to be a traditional B&B by providing a “breakfast box”.

A working group will be set up to consider guidance on this matter and other issues, with the possibility of legislating again in the next parliament.

Tory MSP Alexander Stewart said: “I am yet to be convinced that this will not be detrimental to certain sectors of the industry, especially the traditional bed and breakfast.

"The order does not seem to be fit for purpose and to have comments made that we may have to amend it in the next parliament, we’re dealing with it in this parliament, we should be ensuring that we get it right. If we’re not getting it right, it should be withdrawn.”

Under the scheme, councils will have to ensure each property meets minimum health and safety criteria before a license is awarded.

There will also be flexibility in the scheme to empower councils to add additional requirements for a license.

Stewart said these “mandatory standards” would protect the safety of guests and residents, adding many property owners will already be following them.

He said it was “absolutely essential” to balance the needs of the economy with the rights of communities.

Asked about other options for councils, he highlighted the example of Edinburgh which may wish to bring in measures to combat anti-social behaviour following widespread concern in the city.

But Wightman said that while he supported regulating the sector, he was concerned about a lack of flexibility for councils to choose which types of properties to include, such as home sharing arrangements.

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