Short-term lets consultation: response analysis

Independent analysis of the responses submitted to the short-term lets consultation on a regulatory framework for Scotland.

Breach of Planning Law

110. The consultation paper noted that under current planning legislation, planning permission may be required for a change of use where a dwelling house is used for short-term lets. Whether a material change of use has occurred, and planning permission is therefore required, is a matter for the relevant planning authority to consider on a case-by-case basis. There are concerns that the increase in properties used for short-term lets reflected in the growth of Airbnb numbers is not always in accordance with planning requirements. Enforcement action is a matter for each planning authority, again on a case-by-case basis.

111. Under Section 17 of the Planning (Scotland) Act 2019, Local Authorities will be able to establish 'short-term let control areas' where planning permission will always be required if owners want to change the use of their property to a short-term let. Question 8 asked,

Q8: 'Do you have any comments on the restrictions imposed on short-term lets by planning law?'

112. A total of 697 respondents commented at this question. The following table provides a breakdown of those who chose to respond.

Table 12: Q8

Affected resident 375
Community organisation 45
Guest 45
Host with 1 property 145
Host with 2+ properties 75
Platform 2
Host intermediary 14
Hotel / B&B owner 13
Local authority 17
Other (non short-term let) landlord 9
Other business 24
Other 75
Total organisations 84
Individuals 613
Total respondents 697

113. Overall a large minority of respondents felt that all short-term lets should have to apply for planning permission. The majority of those in support of planning permission were affected residents and community organisations; there was far less support for this from hosts. However, a few respondents noted that current planning law is not designed for short-term lets and should not be the mechanism for dealing with short-term lets; that planning law would need to be strengthened (and enforced) if it is to be applied to short-term lets. The highest numbers of respondents presenting this point of view were hosts and host intermediaries. One organisation noted that the Planning (Scotland) Act 2019 is a positive move and will give local authorities the power to declare established control areas and effectively cap the number of short-term lets in high concentration areas.

114. A few respondents also noted that planning permission should not be needed for short-term lets, with a key point being that this will not address issues of antisocial behaviour. Allied to this, a similar number of respondents commented on the need for a clear and consistent definition or guidelines on what constitutes a material change of use. Perhaps not surprisingly, this was cited by a high number of local authorities.

115. While a common theme throughout the consultation was of a need for a clear definition of short-term lets, one organisation noted the importance of establishing a clear definition of short-term lets particularly in relation to planning, as well as considering property usage; they suggested three different regulatory solutions according to the number of nights of short-term lets and the type of activity (sharing a room or letting a whole property).

116. A few respondents noted their support for the Andy Wightman amendment that local authorities could regulate through a combination of planning and licensing. A smaller number of respondents commented that planning should not be required for the sharing or swapping of homes and that different regulations should apply to these types of short-term let.

117. Another common theme cited by a small minority of respondents, was that local authorities need to have the resources for enforcement, with some of these respondents commenting that the current enforcement of planning law is weak.

118. A few respondents cited alternative solutions. These included a need for stricter controls such as a maximum number of properties that can be used for short-term lets in specific areas, a maximum number of properties for a landlord, or short-term lets being prohibited from tenements with common stairwells. A similar number of respondents suggested a need for regulation along the lines as that for Houses of Multiple Occupancy (HMOs) which would be less stringent than having to apply for a change of use via planning law but nonetheless ensure that there is a regulatory framework for short-term lets.

119. Other suggestions made by small numbers of respondents included:

  • A need for short-term lets to comply with health and safety regulations.
  • The introduction of a high(er) council tax rate for short-term lets; or the removal of council tax relief on second homes.
  • The application of non-domestic rates for short-term lets.
  • Neighbours should be able to veto a change of use from a private residence to a short-term let.
  • There should be limitations on the number of days a property can be let.
  • A need for regulation and a balanced approach; for example, a registration system allowing for enough short-term lets to meet demand but taking local residents and communities into consideration; to ensure the demand from short-term visitors can be met as well as the needs of long-term tenants.
  • A need for discretion for local authorities so they can decide whether to apply planning law to short-term lets. This would offer local flexibility and meet local needs in a local context.

120. Alongside comments on the need for some form of regulation, there were also a small number of references to the need for enforcement to be applied; and that enforcement needs to be applied quickly.

121. A small number of respondents reiterated comments made at earlier questions in relation to the positive and negative impact of short-term lets. A very small number of respondents referenced registration processes undertaken in other cities such as London (where there is a limit on 90 days), Paris (120 days) and Berlin (90 days).



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