Information

Short term lets - licensing scheme part 1: guidance for hosts and operators

Licensing guidance intended for hosts and operators of short-term lets in Scotland. There is also supplementary guidance for licensing authorities to which you can refer for more detailed information.


1. Introduction

1.1. The Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 (Licensing of Short-term Lets) Order 2022[1] was passed by the Scottish Parliament on 19 January 2022 and came into force on 1 March 2022.

1.2. This guidance is intended for hosts and operators of short-term lets in Scotland to explain their responsibilities to comply with this legislation. Hosts and operators may be individuals or organisations such as partnerships, charities, trusts or companies who provide short-term lets.

1.3. There is also supplementary guidance for licensing authorities[2] (about establishing and operating licensing schemes for short-term lets), which you can refer to for more detailed information.

1.4. Separate planning guidance[3] has been produced for hosts and operators. You should check if your accommodation lies within a control area, as obtaining planning permission may be a requirement of applying for a short-term let licence.

1.5. This guidance is non-statutory and should not be interpreted as offering definitive legal advice. If in doubt, you should seek your own legal advice.

(a) Purpose of guidance

1.6. This guidance will help you understand:

  • whether your accommodation falls within scope of the legislation (see Annex A)
  • what you need to do to apply for a licence
  • what you need to do to comply with the requirements of the licensing scheme and relevant regulations
  • your responsibility to comply with the conditions set out in your licence
  • how to renew your licence

1.7. Annex A can help you to establish whether your accommodation and premises are classed as short-term lets under the definition set out in the legislation. This guidance is intended for hosts and operators who have established their accommodation and premises is within scope.

1.8. Words with a particular meaning are highlighted in bold and explained where they first appear and the explanation is repeated in the glossary at the end of this guidance.

(b) Purpose of the licensing scheme

1.9. 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. The Scottish Government has put in place this licensing scheme to ensure basic safety standards are in place across all short-term lets operating in Scotland, while also providing discretionary powers to licensing authorities to address the needs and concerns of local communities. Improved visitor experience and confidence will benefit tourism and the economy.

1.10. The aims of the licensing scheme are:

  • to ensure all short-term lets are safe;
  • to facilitate licensing authorities in knowing and understanding what is happening in their area; and
  • to assist with handling complaints and address issues faced by neighbours effectively.

(c) What the licensing scheme is and where it applies

1.11. The licensing scheme applies to the whole of Scotland and will be implemented by licensing authorities. Your licensing authority is the local authority[4] in whose area your accommodation is located.

1.12. There are some conditions that every short-term let in Scotland will need to follow – these are called mandatory conditions and are primarily about ensuring that guests and neighbours are safe. They are set out in the Licensing Order and licensing authorities have no choice about implementing these. Many hosts and operators will already be complying with these mandatory conditions because some of them are required by existing law and others are best practice.

1.13. Licensing authorities can also set additional conditions to address any specific local circumstances or concerns. These additional conditions might apply to everyone in that licensing authority area or might be specific to your property. Examples of additional conditions are set out in licensing guidance part 2.

(d) How licensing works

1.14. You will need a separate licence for each of your premises, whether or not they are in the same licensing authority area. However, a single licence may be issued in respect of unconventional accommodation (not a dwellinghouse) where there is more than one separately bookable property on the site.

1.15. You do not need a separate licence for short-term lets on the same premises. For example, if you are letting out two rooms in your home, that would be covered by one licence.

1.16. Your licence will specify the type of short-term let for which the premises can be used. Licensing authorities will issue a licence for a premises for either:

  • home sharing;
  • home letting;
  • home sharing and home letting; or
  • secondary letting

(e) Temporary exemptions

1.17. Your licensing authority can grant temporary exemptions to the requirement to have a licence[5]. They can do this for a specified single continuous period not exceeding 6 weeks in any period of 12 months.

1.18. They might do this to accommodate a large influx of visitors over a short period to support sports championship competitions and arts festivals, for example. To get a temporary exemption, you need to apply for one.

1.19. There are some important differences between applying for, and operating with, a temporary exemption and having a licence. Your licensing authority might:

  • ask for the application to be made on a different (shorter) form;
  • charge a different (lower) fee;
  • ask for less information than on a licence application; and
  • not apply some of the mandatory conditions.

1.20. Your licensing authority can check and enforce any conditions that are attached to your exemption. Your licensing authority would have the right to visit your premises.

1.21. Your licensing authority may choose not to issue any temporary exemptions under any circumstances or may have specific criteria that they apply. If you think a temporary exemption might be the right approach for your circumstances, you should check your licensing authority's short-term lets temporary exemptions policy statement, which you should be able to find on their website. You should also check whether there is a deadline for applications to be made in order to secure a temporary exemption.

1.22. Your licensing authority can grant or refuse an application for a temporary exemption. If they grant your application, you will be given a temporary exemption number (like a licence number).

1.23. You should be aware that a temporary exemption from the requirement to have a licence does not affect the way planning rules apply to you. If any temporary changes to planning rules have been made (for example to handle a major international event), your planning authority will publicise these.

(f) Temporary licences

1.24. Licensing authorities can issue temporary licences[6] but they need not do so. If you are granted a temporary licence, it can last for up to six weeks or longer if you have also made an application for a licence. If you have applied for a licence, your temporary licence will last until your licence application is finally determined.

1.25. Your licensing authority website will explain whether and how your licensing authority issues temporary licences, including how long it takes to issue them.

1.26. If you are granted a temporary licence, you will be given a temporary licence number. You must comply with all the mandatory conditions.

1.27. You must not use your premises for a type of short-term let that is outside the scope of your licence. If you want to make a change to the type of letting being carried out, you must apply to the licensing authority that issued the licence.

(g) What happens next

1.28. Licensing authorities must have their licensing scheme ready to receive applications by 1 October 2022.

1.29. After 1 October 2022:

  • new hosts and operators will need to have a licence. This means that, if you were not using your premises to provide short-term lets before 1 October 2022, you can advertise but not take bookings or receive guests until you have obtained a licence.
  • existing hosts/ operators have until 1 April 2023 to apply for a licence if the accommodation the licence is for, was used as a short-term let before 1 October 2022. During this period you can operate without a licence (by continuing to take bookings and receiving guests) unless your licence has been determined, and your application rejected. You will need to be able to prove that you used the property for short-term lets, for example through evidence of bookings and payments, as part of your initial application. After 1 April 2023, existing hosts can only continue to operate if they have:
  • a) Submitted an application for a licence on or before 1 April 2023 that has not yet been determined; OR
  • b) Been granted a short-term let licence.

1.30. On or after 1 October 2022, it is a criminal offence for any person to continue to operate after their licence application has been determined and refused.

1.31. All short-term lets in Scotland will need to be licensed by 1 July 2024. On or after 1 July 2024 operating without a licence is unlawful in all cases.

1.32. This is summarised in the following table:

Period / Rules for hosts and operators

From 1 October 2022

  • New hosts must not operate without a licence
  • Existing hosts can operate without a licence if they used the accommodation as a short-term let before 1 October 2022 (but must continue to comply with existing laws and regulations).
  • Existing hosts should use this time to make a licence application.
  • Existing hosts are treated as new hosts when applying for a licence for any accommodation they did not use as short-term let before 1 October 2022.
  • Existing hosts must cease operating within 28 days if their licence application is refused (guests should be asked to leave immediately if they are at serious risk of harm). Guests with affected bookings should be offered a full refund.

From 1 April 2023

  • New hosts must not operate without a licence
  • Existing hosts can operate without a licence for the accommodation that they used as short-term let before 1 October 2022 but only if they have submitted an application and it has not been determined. They should make it clear in their terms and conditions that bookings are conditional on compliance with the licensing scheme..
  • Existing hosts must cease operating within 28 days if their licence application is refused (guests should be asked to leave immediately if they are at serious risk of harm). Guests with affected bookings should be offered a full refund.

From 1 July 2024

  • All hosts must have a licence
  • Any host must cease operating within 28 days if their licence application is refused

1.33. Operating without a licence is a criminal offence so it is important to get a licence in good time if you need one.

(h) Development of the licensing scheme and guidance

1.34. This guidance has been produced by the Scottish Government with input from a stakeholder working group. You can find out more about how the licensing scheme was developed on the Scottish Government website: Short-term lets: regulation information - gov.scot (www.gov.scot)

(i) Updates

1.35. This version of the guidance relates to the Licensing Order approved by the Scottish Parliament on 19 January 2022 but will be kept under review and updated as required.

1.36. The latest version will always be available at: Short-term lets: regulation information - gov.scot (www.gov.scot)

Contact

Email: shorttermlets@gov.scot

Back to top