Regulation of short-term lets, including the likes of Airbnb, is to be introduced in Scotland. Taxing Airbnb hosts is also to be put under urgent consideration.
From spring next year, local councils in Scotland will be able to run licensing schemes, allowing them to introduce measures where they decide it is in the interests of local communities.
The licensing schemes could involve huge numbers. According to the Scottish government, there are 32,000 properties in Scotland registered with Airbnb alone.
A new safety requirement will be mandatory across Scotland, covering every type of short-term let and almost certainly involving an HMO-style inspection.
Councils will also have optional powers, enabling them to designate control areas to ensure that planning permission will always be required for the change of use of whole properties to short-term lets.
Such powers will not be able to be used for home sharing – where people rent a room in their home.
Additionally, Scottish ministers are to urgently consider how short-term lets will be taxed in the future.
Local government minister Kevin Steward said that in some areas the numbers of short-term lets were causing problems, and making it difficult to people to find homes to live in.
The burgeoning short-term lets industry has expressed disappointment at the move, which could set a precedent for other UK countries.
Shomik Panda, director general of the UK Short Term Accommodation Association, said: “Whilst we are disappointed that the Government has felt it necessary to introduce a mix of initiatives that could lead to an uncertain and fragmented regulatory environment in Scotland, we remain positive about the industry and will work constructively to ensure that the new rules will be workable when they come into effect next year.
“We will work with stakeholders and hosts to ensure there is compliance with the new regulations and continue to represent the interests of a maturing industry that wants to grow responsibly.”
Stephen McGowan, a licensing expert and partner at law firm TLT, warned that there could be a ‘massive’ flood of licensing applications which would put strains on local government resources.
Meanwhile Airbnb is planning a six-month roadshow to key cities in the UK, including Bath and Bristol, to discuss local concerns and possible licensing systems. In some areas, local bed and breakfasts say their business has suffered because of the growth of Airbnb, where hosts do not have to pay business rates.
There are also concerns about short-term lets being used for noisy stag and hen parties and pop-up brothels.