3. Following best practice
Engaging with your neighbours
3.1. When the licensing authority receive your application for a licence, they will alert your neighbours and give them the chance to raise any objections. (The planning authority, usually also the local authority, will also do this if you submit a planning application.)
3.2. Licensing authorities can choose how they tell your neighbours. They can either send a notice to neighbours or display a notice. Broadly speaking, the licensing authority must notify your neighbours within 20 metres of the boundary of your premises. If your premises is in a block of flats or a tenement stair, this will include all residents in the block or on the tenement stair and likely to extend to other nearby addresses too. In rural areas, this will at least extend to nearest neighbours.
3.3. Ideally, you will have already established good relationships with your neighbours. But we know that some hosts and operators are unknown to their neighbours.
3.4. Given that your neighbours will be notified of your application for a licence and will have the opportunity to object, you are encouraged to let your neighbours know in advance about your application, and that they will receive a notification from the licensing authority, so that they are not surprised.
3.5. When you do this, you may wish to ask your neighbours if they have had any problems with your short-term let (for existing operations) or if they have any concerns about your proposals (for new operations). This will provide an opportunity to engage and address any concerns ahead of submitting an application. As with any dispute, early informal resolution is always better than letting fears or problems grow and develop into a formal process.
3.6. The Scottish Government has heard from communities and residents through our 2019 and 2020 consultations, and at various other meetings and events. An ongoing theme in our engagement with communities and residents is that the majority of areas of conflict between residents and short-term lets arise where hosts and operators are not local and not known to their neighbours.
3.7. In many cases, neighbours who have contact details for the host or operator of a short-term let have an established relationship and a means to highlight any issues. Remember that you may be unaware of any problems. You may be doing your best but your guests may be causing problems for neighbours which you do not see or experience.
3.8. Where neighbours object to your application to use a property to provide short-term lets, you will be given the opportunity to respond to the objections either in writing or at a hearing. Further detail on this is provided in chapter 6.
3.9. Neighbours have the right to object to your application and, whilst engaging your neighbours is a good thing to do, you must respect this right. Even well-intentioned engagement could come across as intimidating if it is not handled sensitively.
Providing a quality experience for your guests
3.10. Most hosts and operators want to provide the best service that they can and get satisfaction from positive feedback from guests. Many guests will post reviews, often through the letting agency or platform through whom they made the booking.
3.11. We use letting agency to mean an organisation which facilitates the agreement between the host or operator and the guest for use of the property as a short-term let and which may additionally provide other services (marketing, bookings, queries, cleaning etc.). A letting agency here offers a similar service to those providing for private residential tenancies; indeed some letting agencies will facilitate both private residential tenancies and short-term lets.
3.12. We use platform to mean an online letting agency. For example Airbnb, booking.com and Expedia are all platforms. There are also many smaller, more specialist platforms for particular types of property. There are also "super-platforms" that allow hosts and operators to offer their property across a number of platforms simultaneously.
3.13. It also makes business sense to provide your guests with the best possible experience before, during and after their visit.
3.14. VisitScotland offers a Quality Assurance Scheme that demonstrates a business's commitment to providing a clean, safe and welcoming visitor experience. Being a member of the Quality Assurance grading scheme enables a business to protect and build on prudent business practices, and also brings benefit to visitors by way of reassuring them with transparency in standards of quality.
3.15. There are companies, such as Quality in Tourism, that can provide support, both in terms of meeting minimum standards and going further to provide the best possible service to guests, and accreditation services. Your licensing authority might accept accreditation or certification from third parties as evidence of compliance with licensing conditions. You should confirm your licensing authority's requirements before paying for third party certification for that purpose.
Following industry codes of practice
3.16. There are a number of various trade bodies and membership associations who provide advice and support to hosts and operators of short-term lets, including:
- The Association of Scotland's Self Caterers
- The UK Short-Term Accommodation Association
- The Scottish Bed and Breakfast Association
- The Scottish Guest House and B&B Alliance
- The Scottish Tourism Alliance.
3.17. Information and advice from these organisations can help you provide a quality experience for your guests and help you build and maintain good relationships with your neighbours. Many of these organisations publish codes of practice or conduct on their websites.
3.18. For example, the Association of Scotland's Self-Caterers ask members to sign up to their code of conduct, which sets out the standards with which their member hosts and operators are expected to comply. These points (maintaining residential amenity) are particularly relevant to maintaining good relationships with neighbours:
- communicate to guests that use of the property is for holiday or business only and any other use, including parties, is by prior permission only;
- communicate to guests that visitors to the property are not permitted without prior permission;
- communication to guests that the number of persons booked may not be exceeded;
- encourage all guests to be mindful of neighbours when coming in late, to not make excessive noise and to read the 'house rules' which should be provided;
- ensure cleaners or other service providers show respect to neighbours when such services are being performed;
- display a notice in the property or guest handbook asking guests to respect neighbours; and
- have clear instructions for rubbish and recycling which meet the local guidelines for collection and responsible removal or ensure that rubbish is removed and uplifted at each changeover; provide dedicated contact details for members of the public or local authorities to register complaints.
3.19. Please note that the Scottish Government does not endorse any particular service provider or trade body. You should do your own research and work out the best approach for your circumstances. If in doubt, you should seek your own legal advice.
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