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.
2. Getting ready to apply for a licence
2.1. Before you apply for a licence, you should be aware that in assessing your application, your licensing authority will consider:
- your suitability and that of the other people named on your application form;
- your compliance / ability to comply with the mandatory conditions (applicable to all short-term lets across Scotland);
- your compliance / ability to comply with any additional conditions that the licensing authority might attach to your licence (either specific to your accommodation, or specific to short-term lets in your local authority); and
- the suitability of your premises in the context of the licensing authority's policies.
2.2. In addition, you should check your local authority's planning policies to find out if you need to obtain planning permission before applying for a licence. Further information is set out in the Planning Guidance for Short-term Lets.
(a) Planning permission
2.3. You are advised to check whether you need planning permission to use your property to provide short-term lets, see the planning guidance. Your licensing authority can refuse to consider your application if it looks like you need planning permission and you do not have it.
2.4. This mandatory licence condition is only relevant if:
- your premises is in a control area – if in any doubt, check with your planning authority;
- you are using it for secondary letting; and
- it is a dwellinghouse.
2.5. If this applies to you, then you must have made an application for planning permission or already have planning permission before you apply for a licence. You must also make sure that you continue to have planning permission whilst you have a licence.
2.6. It is possible that your planning authority could designate a control area affecting your premises after you have been granted a licence. To comply with this licence condition, you should submit a planning application as soon as possible after the control area is designated. Your licensing authority will make reasonable allowance for you to do this.
2.7. In general, licence fees are not refundable. The Scottish Government expects licensing authorities to publish their policy on refunds so you can see your licensing authority's position before you make an application. Therefore, if you have been granted a licence, and are subsequently refused planning permission following the designation of a control area we do not expect you will be refunded.
(b) Who can make an application
2.8. Before you make an application for a licence, you must identify all the people who need to be named on the application form.
2.9. You, as the host or operator, can apply for a licence to use your (or someone else's) premises to provide short-term lets. You can also ask another person to make the application on your behalf. For example, you might ask:
- your solicitor; or
- your letting agency or property management company.
2.10. You, as the host or operator, are the person responsible for granting agreements with guests to use the property.
2.11. If you do not own the premises, then you must have the permission of the owner(s) to make an application for a licence. For example, you may be a tenant and want to use your property for home sharing or home letting. You should first make sure that your tenancy agreement would allow you to do this in general terms and then seek the specific permission of your landlord.
(c) Information required about those named on the application
2.12. You should be ready to provide the following information on your application form.
a) If you are applying as an individual:
- your full name;
- your date and place of birth;
- your address;
- your address history for last five years; and
- e-mail and telephone number.
b) If you are applying as a corporate entity (e.g. company or charity):
- your full name;
- the address of its registered or principal office;
- the names and private addresses and dates and places of birth of its directors, partners or other persons responsible for its management, including trustees in the case of charities.
2.13. Where you intend to appoint somebody else to manage your property, similar details must be provided for your agent or day-to-day manager, irrespective of whether you are applying as an individual or a corporate entity.
2.14. You must have the consent of the owner (or each owner) and your application will be refused if that is not provided. Where premises are owned by multiple owners, you must provide:
a) a declaration from each other owner, or each owner, that they consent to the application, or
b) a declaration from a person who is authorised to act on behalf of all the owners.
(d) Mandatory conditions
2.15. The licensing scheme requires all short-term lets to comply with mandatory conditions which apply in Scotland. You therefore need to check you comply before making your application and, if relevant, undertake work to ensure you meet the conditions.
2.16. You may be able to do some or most of the checks and work yourself by following this and other guidance (depending on your own background, qualifications and experience). Where you do need assistance, it is worth noting a number of local authorities operate trusted trader schemes, which can help you to find honest and reliable tradespeople.
2.17. The mandatory conditions relate to:
- day to day management of the short-term let only being carried out by the holder of the licence (see 3.10 to 3.14)
- only operating under the type of licence you have been granted (see 3.1)
- fire safety
- gas safety
- electrical safety
- water safety
- safety and repair standards
- maximum occupancy
- displaying information (see 5.1)
- planning permission (see 2.3 to 2.6)
- listings (see 5.2)
- payment of fees
- providing true and accurate information (i.e. not providing false and misleading information)
Fire safety: general
2.18. The Licensing Order sets out some conditions around fire safety which your licensing authority will want to check for licensing purposes. Please note that you must also comply with other requirements in the Fire (Scotland) Act 2005, which the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service are responsible for enforcing.
2.19. The 2005 Act requires the person who has control of the premises to provide fire safety measures, including risk reduction measures, means of fire warning, fire-fighting, escape, staff training and instruction, as well as emergency procedures. It sets out fire safety responsibilities and seeks to ensure people are safe from harm caused by fire.
2.20. You must take appropriate action to:
- assess the risk from fire in your premises;
- identify the fire safety measures necessary as a result of the assessment of risk;
- implement these fire safety measures, using risk reduction principles;
- put in place fire safety arrangements for the ongoing control and review of the fire safety measures;
- comply with any further specific requirements of the fire safety regulations;
- keep the fire safety risk assessment and outcome under review; and
- maintain good records.
2.21. You can find out more in Practical Fire Safety Guidance For Premises with Sleeping Accommodation. Broadly speaking, Annex 2 of this guidance is aimed at premises used for secondary letting with no more than 10 guests and home sharing with no more than 8 guests. If you are in doubt about your legal obligations, you may wish to seek further advice.
2.22. You can find out more information about how to conduct a fire risk assessment from the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, including information about registered and accredited fire risk assessors.
Fire safety: the premises
You must ensure your premises has satisfactory equipment installed for detecting, and for giving warning of—
(a) fire or suspected fire, and
(b) carbon monoxide present in a concentration that is hazardous to health.
2.23. This is stated explicitly in the Licensing Order and applies to all premises. (It is the same as the repairing standard.) Therefore, every host and operator should be complying with this requirement.
2.24. You must make sure you have taken adequate steps to ensure fire prevention, including fitting and maintaining working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms. Further details can be found in Tolerable Standard Guidance: Satisfactory Fire Detection and Satisfactory Carbon Monoxide Detection.
Fire safety: furniture and fittings
a) ensure that all upholstered furnishings and mattresses within the parts of the premises which are for guest use, or to which guests are otherwise permitted to have access, comply with the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire Safety) Regulations 1988,
b) keep records showing that all upholstered furnishings and mattresses within the premises comply with the Regulations.
2.25. You could comply with this condition by:
- keeping photographic evidence;
- removing and retaining the labels themselves; or
- keeping receipts which confirm compliance (for example by providing a reference number or accurate description of the product).
2.26. You do not have to ensure that furnishings and mattresses retain their fire safety labels. This might be difficult to rely on because guests might deface or remove them.
2.27. If you are home sharing (letting out a room in your home), the requirement does not apply to areas of your accommodation to which your guest does not have access, for example your bedroom.
Where your premises has a gas supply—
a) the holder of the licence must arrange for an annual gas safety inspection of all gas pipes, flues and appliances in the premises,
b) if, after an annual inspection, any appliance does not meet the required safety standard, the holder of the licence must not let their accommodation until the works necessary to bring the appliance to the required safety standard have been carried out.
2.28. When you apply, you must be able to provide confirmation (if requested) that a currently valid, annual gas safety check has been carried out on all gas appliances by a Gas Safe registered engineer.
2.29. If your licence lasts for more than one year, it is your responsibility to ensure that a gas safety inspection is completed each year.
2.30. If you do not use any form of gas (you have no gas connection or private storage tank), then you do not need to take any action.
If you have electrical fittings or items in the premises, you must—
a) ensure that any electrical fittings and items are in—
(i) a reasonable state of repair, and
(ii) proper and safe working order,
b) arrange for an electrical safety inspection to be carried out by a competent person at least every five years or more frequently if directed by the competent person,
c) ensure that following an electrical safety inspection, the competent person produces an Electrical Installation Condition Report on any fixed installations,
d) arrange for a competent person to—
(i) produce a Portable Appliance Testing Report on moveable appliances to which a guest has access, and
(ii) date label and sign all moveable appliances which have been inspected.
2.31. A competent person must produce both the Electrical Installation Condition Report and the Portable Appliance Testing Report but it need not be the same person. The definition of an Electrical Installation Condition Report is set out in the Licensing Order.
2.32. The Scottish Government has produced statutory guidance on electrical installations and appliances in private rented property. Annex A of that guidance sets out who is competent to conduct an Electrical Installation Condition Report and you should have regard to this advice. Electrical Safety First have also produced a landlords' guide to electrical safety. You will find these helpful as the standards that apply to private residential tenancies also apply to short-term lets.
2.33. At the time of this guidance publication, the minimum standard for electrical safety inspections to be carried out is at least every five years, as set out in the IET wiring regulations BS 7671.
Water: private supplies
2.34. If your premises is supplied with water from Scottish Water, then you do not need to take any further action in respect of this condition.
2.35. If your premises has a private water supply, then you must comply with requirements on the owners of private dwellings in the 2017 Regulations. You can find more information and guidance from the Drinking Water Quality Regulator for Scotland: Guidance on the Water Intended for Human Consumption (Private Supplies) (Scotland) Regulations 2017 | DWQR.
You must assess the risk from exposure to Legionella within your premises, whether or not it has a private water supply.
2.36. The Legionella risk assessment does not need to be carried out by a professional; you can do it yourself. The risks from hot and cold water systems in most residential settings are generally considered to be low because water is used regularly and does not stagnate.
2.37. You are advised to keep a brief record of what assessment you did, as your licensing authority may want to see it. Your licensing authority may also provide a template legionella risk assessment form which you can use to complete your assessment.
2.38. You can find out more on the Health and Safety Executive webpage on legionella and landlords' responsibilities
2.39. Generally, you must take all reasonable steps to ensure the premises is safe for residential use. The Licensing Order and this guidance cannot anticipate every circumstance. Safety may be checked by a suitably qualified council official, such as an Environmental Health Officer. They will tailor any inspections they carry out to the particular circumstances of your premises.
The repairing standard for houses and flats
Where your premises is a dwellinghouse, you must ensure that the premises meet the repairing standard.
2.40. The repairing standard requires:
- your premises to be wind and water tight and in all other respects reasonably fit for people to live in;
- the structure and exterior (including drains, gutters and external pipes) must be in a reasonable state of repair and in proper working order;
- installations for supplying water, gas and electricity and for sanitation, space heating and heating water must be in a reasonable state of repair and in proper working order;
- any fixtures, fittings and appliances that you provide for guests must be in a reasonable state of repair and in proper working order;
- any furnishings that you provide for guests must be capable of being used safely for the purpose for which they are designed;
- the premises must have a satisfactory way of detecting fires and for giving warning in the event of a fire or suspected fire;
- the premises must have satisfactory provision for giving warning if carbon monoxide is present in a concentration that is hazardous to health.
- the premises must meet the statutory tolerable standard.
2.41. The Tolerable Standard is the minimum standard for all housing, and a home which falls below this standard is considered to be unfit for human habitation.
2.42. The Repairing Standard is higher (and all housing which meets the Repairing Standard must meet the Tolerable Standard). Private residential tenancies and HMOs are also required to meet the requirements of the Repairing Standard.
2.43. If you are using a dwellinghouse for secondary letting, you must have a valid EPC certificate issued within the last 10 years. Note that you can be fined for failing to hold a valid EPC certificate for your premises under building standards legislation. Guidance on EPC requirements for holiday lets can be found here: Energy Performance Certificates for Holiday Lets: guidance - gov.scot (www.gov.scot) If you have bought your property recently, you may wish to refer to the Home Report for the property. EPC's are typically included within Home Reports.
You must ensure that the number of guests residing in the premises does not exceed the number specified in the licence.
2.44. You should state in your application how many guests you would like to accommodate. Check with your licensing authority as it may publish criteria on maximum occupancy to help you work this out for your premises.
2.45. The licensing authority will want to consider the number of beds, bedrooms, size of the premises and means of escape. It may wish to visit your premises or ask to see floor plans.
2.46. Your licensing authority may specify on your licence that your guests may bring a certain number of small children and these would not count towards the occupancy of the premises. Children above the age limit specified on your licence and any additional children of any age would count towards the occupancy.
2.47. Your licensing authority will consider the facts and circumstances of your application and determine the maximum number of guests you can accommodate (and your licence will state this).
2.48. However, the licensing authority may also consider:
a) the maximum number that can be accommodated safely; and
b) the maximum number that can be accommodated within tolerable noise and nuisance standards for neighbours.
2.49. If they grant your application, they will normally set the lowest number out of: the number you asked for; the maximum safe number; and the maximum tolerable number.
Insurance for buildings and public liability
You must, for the duration of the licence, ensure there is in place for the premises—
(a) valid buildings insurance, and
(b) valid public liability insurance for the duration of each short-term let agreement .
2.50. This condition is important to protect your interests, those of the owner of your premises, neighbours and guests, should any accident, damage or injury occur. You must make sure that insurance cover remains in place for the duration of each short-term let agreement.
2.51. The buildings insurance must cover the short-term let activity but this could be through your own insurance policy or through a shared policy covering the premises (e.g. for an apartment block) or insurance taken out by the owner.
Payment of fees
You must pay any fees due to the licensing authority in respect of the licence on demand.
2.52. Your application will not be considered unless you pay the relevant fee. Your licence will also not be renewed if you do not pay the appropriate renewal fee. Some licensing authorities might allow fees to be paid in instalments and your licence might be suspended or revoked if you do not keep up with your payments.
False or misleading information
You must not provide any false or misleading information to your licensing authority.
2.53. You must provide all relevant information and be honest in your application and subsequent communications with the licensing authority, for example when:
- your licensing authority asks you about your short-term let activity;
- your licensing authority visits your premises;
- you make a request of the licensing authority to change the terms of your licence; or
- you apply to renew your licence.
2.54. You should provide relevant information about the (anticipated) use of private outdoor facilities, communal areas and communal outdoor facilities, as these can be places of particular concern to residents and neighbours.
2.55. It is an offence to provide false or misleading information to your licensing authority. They could suspend or revoke your licence. You might also have to pay a fine, currently up to £2,500.
(e) Additional conditions
2.56. Before you apply, check the licensing authority's website to find out whether additional licence conditions may be applied to your licence. These conditions may be specific to you, apply to you and others in similar circumstances or apply to everyone in the licensing authority's area. They might do this is because of particular local circumstances or because there is something special or unusual about your premises.
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