4. Getting ready to apply for a licence
4.1. Before you apply for a licence, you should check that you will be able to meet all the mandatory conditions that apply across Scotland. You should also check with your licensing authority whether they have additional conditions which are likely to apply to your circumstances. For example, there may be additional restrictions or conditions that apply to your type of short-term let, your premises or your local area.
4.2. In addition, you should check whether your local authority's planning policies might affect your short-term let activity, including whether you might be affected by a control area.
4.3. You should also check whether your licensing authority has set out policies on:
- overprovision – your application may be refused if your licensing authority considers that there is already too much short-term let activity in the area in which your premises is located;
- temporary licences – you may be able to apply for a temporary licence which would allow you to continue to operate whilst your licence application is fully determined; or
- temporary exemptions – you may be able to apply for a temporary exemption if you only want to operate for a particular occasion or for a short period, and the licensing authority in which your premises is located provides for these.
4.4. Temporary licences and temporary exemptions are explained in more detail in chapter 5.
4.5. In assessing your particular application, your licensing authority will consider:
- your suitability and that of the other people named on your application form (see below); and
- your compliance with the mandatory conditions;
- your compliance with any additional conditions that the licensing authority might attach to your licence; and
- the suitability of your premises in the context of the licensing authorities policies, including in respect of overprovision.
Who can make an application
4.6. 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.
4.7. You, as the host or operator, are the person responsible for granting agreements with guests to use the property, even if this is delegated to another person or company on a day-to-day basis.
4.8. 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.
Fit and proper person test
4.9. Before you make an application for a licence, you must identify all the people who need to be named on the application form. Everybody named on the application form will be subject to the fit and proper person test and it is important that the right people are considered.
4.10. You will normally need to include yourself, the owners (if not you), and everyone involved in the day-to-day management. This is explained in more detail below.
4.11. Licensing authorities are responsible for determining whether you are a fit and proper person to offer property for short-term lets in their area. Your licensing authority is likely to take account of the following:
a) relevant criminal convictions and other relevant information from the police;
b) being disqualified from being a private landlord or having had letting agent or property factor registration revoked now or in the past;
c) having had a licence for short-term lets or House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) revoked by any licensing authority;
d) having had an application for a short-term lets licence refused by any licensing authority (other than on the grounds of overprovision); and
e) providing false or misleading information in an application for a short-term lets licence, HMO licence or application to be a private landlord.
4.12. Licensing authorities can also consider any other information they consider to be relevant. They will liaise with the police for information as appropriate. They have powers to request additional information, or make reasonable enquiries, for example to verify the details of all property owners.
4.13. The purpose of collecting this information is to assess the fitness of applicants and any agents (or day-to-day managers) to be involved in providing property for short-term lets. Whilst the majority of hosts and operators are honest and well-intentioned, we know that there are some who are negligent or use their business for criminal purposes.
4.14. The purpose of these checks is to: protect neighbours, guests and other people from harm and crime; and to assist the police in law enforcement.
4.15. Your application will be refused by your licensing authority if, in their opinion, you (or your agent) is not a fit and proper person to be have a licence.
4.16. If you have any concerns about this, you should seek advice before submitting your application as it may be better to make different arrangements.
Who should be named on the application
Hosts and operators
4.17. You, as the host or operator, should be named on the application form.
4.18. The owner(s) of the premises should be named on the application form.
4.19. Where a property is jointly owned, all owners must be named on the application form.
4.20. Where a property is owned by a business, for example as part of a portfolio, all company directors, partners, or others persons responsible for its management must be named on the application form.
4.21. Any people that you are asking to do the day-to-day management of your property should be named on your application. For example, this might be a spouse, a friend or someone you employ.
4.22. If you have a letting agency to manage your property, then your application form should name the directors, partners or others responsible for the letting agency. However, the employees of the agency do not need to be named.
4.23. You should not name everyone with any involvement in your arrangements. For example, cleaners and others who enter the premises are not to be named on your application for that reason alone.
Matilda owns a property which she asks a letting agency to manage on her behalf. The letting agency uses a cleaning company to prepare her property for the guests.
The letting agency should be named on Matilda's application. The cleaning company should not. No employees of either the agency nor the cleaning company should be named on the application.
Information required about those named on the application
4.24. 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 others persons responsible for its management, including trustees in the case of charities.
4.25. Similar details must be provided for any agent or day-to-day manager.
4.26. 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 he or she consents to the application, or
b) a declaration from a person who is authorised to act on behalf of all the owners.
4.27. The licensing scheme requires all licensed short-term lets to comply with mandatory conditions which apply across Scotland. Many hosts and operators will already be complying with these mandatory conditions because some of them are already required through other legislation and others are best practice now.
4.28. As part of considering your application, your licensing authority will want to check that you and your premises are compliant with the mandatory conditions. They might do this through one or a combination of:
- a visit to your premises;
- asking to see relevant documentation; or
- asking you to declare that you have met the conditions.
4.29. Your application will be refused if you cannot show how you comply with the mandatory conditions so it is worth ensuring you are ready before making your application.
4.30. Failure to maintain the mandatory conditions would be a breach of your licence conditions and you could be fined or lose your licence(s) if you do so. It is important that you keep evidence of how you have complied with the conditions, for example records of safety checks and service visits.
Enlisting professional assistance
4.31. Responsible hosts and operators will want to do the right thing. For most of the mandatory conditions, there will be professionals out there who can help you. However, there will also be less scrupulous "professionals" who may be underqualified, inexperienced and/or happy to charge you an excessive amount, possibly to do unnecessary work or checks. 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 getting three quotes and/or a personal recommendation. You should always check that the "professional" has the relevant qualifications to do the check or work you are asking them to do. A number of local authorities operate trusted trader schemes which can help you to find honest and reliable tradespeople.
4.32. Beware of fire risk assessments which are expensive or of poor quality. 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.
4.33. Beware that some tradespeople might recommend electrical safety inspections more frequently than is merited by your circumstances in order to generate work for themselves. The minimum standard for this mandatory requirement is that an inspection is carried out at least every five years, as set out in the IET wiring regulations BS 7671.
4.34. Make sure you understand what is being recommended to you and why. A true professional will be happy to explain what they are recommending and for you to verify it.
Responsibility for the premises
You must not authorise any other person to carry on the day to day management of the short-term let of the premises.
4.35. You must name the people involved in the day to day management of your premises in your application. This is so that the licensing authority can check that they are suitable. You must not make different arrangements for the day-to-day management of your premises without getting the approval of your licensing authority.
4.36. If you want to appoint a new agent or day-to-day manager of your premises (see paragraph 4.21 and following), you should contact your licensing authority to find out how to make that change.
4.37. 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 will often 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. For example, there are some important differences in making sure a treehouse is safe, compared with a cottage, such as ensuring guests can access it safely. Where a council official carrying out a visit to your premises is in doubt, they will seek professional advice.
- Maximum occupancy
You must ensure that the number of guests residing in the premises does not exceed the number specified in the licence.
4.38. Your licence will specify the maximum number of guests you can have to stay in your premises. You should state in your application how many guests you would like to accommodate.
4.39. Your licensing authority will consider the facts and circumstances of your application and determine the maximum number of guests you can accommodate. They may agree that the number you have requested is sensible, in which case this will be the number on your licence. We anticipate this will often be the case.
4.40. 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.
4.41. The licensing authority will want to consider the number of beds, bedrooms, size of the premises and means of escape.
4.42. 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.
4.43. Your licensing authority may wish to visit your premises or ask to see floor plans for it.
John owns a flat with two bedrooms which might be expected to accommodate 2-4 people if it was their principal home. John has applied for a licence to accommodate 10 guests (four in bunk beds in each bedroom and two on a double sofa bed in the living room).
His licensing authority considers that eight guests could be accommodated safely but only four can be accommodated within tolerable noise and nuisance standards for neighbours. His licence application is approved specifying a maximum occupancy of four guests.
4.44. Your licensing authorities may publish some criteria on maximum occupancy to help you work this out for your premises.
4.45. You must do everything you can to ensure that guests understand and comply with the maximum occupancy condition. There may be some guests who show up with too many people at the start of the stay or try to invite additional people to stay later without your knowledge. You must try to prevent this.
4.46. You should be clear on any advert or listing, and in your booking terms and conditions, on the maximum number of guests that you can accommodate. You should also be aware of the number of people present if you have cause to visit the premises during their stay. Anyone you ask to clean the premises at any point can also check that no additional bedding has been slipped in. Clearly, some types of booking present a greater risk than others (for example, you may have repeat visitors whom you know and trust). In some cases, it might be sensible to ensure your guests are greeted on arrival, although we appreciate COVID-19 has accelerated moves towards contactless check-in.
4.47. 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 and any additional children of any age would count towards the occupancy.
- The repairing standard for houses and flats
Where your premises is a dwellinghouse, you must ensure that the premises meet the repairing standard.
4.48. 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.
4.49. 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.
4.50. 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.
4.51. 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)
- Fire safety: general
4.52. 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, see paragraph 4.89 below. The general fire safety guidance will also help you to comply with the conditions on the premises, furniture and fittings set out below.
- 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.
4.53. This is stated explicitly in the Licensing Order and applies to all premises. (It is the same as the repairing standard.) So every host and operator should be complying with this requirement.
4.54. You must make sure you have taken adequate steps to ensure fire prevention, including fitting and maintaining working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms.
- Fire safety: furniture and fittings
a) ensure that all upholstered furnishings and mattresses within the premises 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.
4.55. 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).
4.56. 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.
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 grant a short-term let until the works necessary to bring the appliance to the required safety standard have been carried out.
4.57. 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.
4.58. If your licence lasts for more than one year, it is your responsibility to ensure that a gas safety inspection is completed each year.
4.59. 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.
4.60. This is a requirement in the Licensing Order for all premises. (There are very similar requirements in the repairing standard.) So every host and operator must comply with this requirement.
4.61. 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.
4.62. The Scottish Government has produced statutory guidance on electrical installations and appliances in private rented property. This guidance (in its Annex A) 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 same standards as apply to private residential tenancies also apply to short-term lets.
Water: private supplies
Where your premises is served by a private water supply, you must comply with the requirements on the owners of private dwellings set out in the Water Intended for Human Consumption (Private Supplies) (Scotland) Regulations 2017.
4.63. 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.
4.64. If your premises has a private water supply, then you must comply 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.
4.65. The Legionalla risk assessment does not need to be carried out by a professional; you can do it yourself. You do not need to conduct an in-depth, detailed assessment unless there is something unusual about your premises. 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.
4.66. You are advised to keep a brief record of what assessment you did. Your licensing authority may want to see it.
4.67. You can find out more on the Health and Safety Executive webpage on legionella and landlords' responsibilities
- Information to be displayed
You must make the following information available within the premises in a place where it is accessible to all guests—
a) a certified copy of the licence and the licence conditions,
b) fire, gas and electrical safety information,
c) details of how to summon the assistance of emergency services,
d) a copy of the gas safety report,
e) a copy of the Electrical Installation Condition Report, and
f) a copy of the Portable Appliance Testing Report.
4.68. How you do this is up to you. You might display the information on a notice board or in a folder containing details about the premises. The important point is that guests can access it easily.
- Planning Permission
Where your premises is in a control area and where the use of the premises for a short-term let requires planning permission, you must either—
a) have made an application for planning permission or
b) already have planning permission.
4.69. You are advised to check whether you need planning permission to use your property to provide short-term lets, see the planning guidance (Paper 6). Your licensing authority can refuse to consider your application if it looks like you need planning permission and you do not have it.
4.70. However, this mandatory licensing 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.
4.71. 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.
4.72. It is possible that your planning authority could designate a control area affecting your premises after you have been granted a licence. You should be aware that a control area might be designated because of publicity and consultation about it. You may also be contacted directly because you have a licence. To comply with this licensing 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.
- Listings to include licence number, maximum occupancy and EPC rating
You must ensure that any listing or advert (whether electronic or otherwise) for your premises includes—
a) the licence number,
b) the maximum number of guests permitted to reside in the premises, and
c) a valid Energy Performance Certificate rating, if you are required to have one for the premises.
4.73. Where you have a licence, you must display your licence number on any listing or advert. Displaying your licence number will help guests to know that the property meets the standards of the licensing scheme and is likely to help you in attracting guests to your property.
4.74. You may advertise your property in advance of obtaining a licence and existing hosts may also accept bookings and continue to provide property whilst their licence application is considered. New hosts beginning operating after 1 October 2022 cannot accept bookings or receive guests until they have a licence. However, you must ensure that any advert or listing placed on or after you are granted a licence includes your licence number. Where you have electronic listings or adverts, for example on your own website or on a platform, you should update your listing or advert as soon as reasonably practicable after receiving your licence.
4.75. Some licensing authorities may issue you with a temporary licence, or a provisional licence number, whilst your application is being considered by them. In these cases, you should use the temporary licence number or provisional licence number on your advert or listing. Temporary licences are explained more at paragraph 5.12 and following. A provisional licence number would be issued for administrative convenience only and would not, of itself, permit you to receive any guests.
4.76. Licensing authorities and letting agencies (platforms) will conduct checks to ensure that licence numbers on listings and adverts are genuine and that these requirements are complied with.
4.77. As soon as you are notified that your application has been refused or your licence has been revoked, you should take down any adverts or listings for your property. Using your property for short-term lets would be an offence (operating without a licence) and your adverts or listings could be perceived or used as evidence of your intention to break the law.
4.78. The purpose of displaying your EPC rating is to give your guests an idea about the energy performance of your property and also an indication of how costly the property is to heat, in the case where they have to pay for it. You are only required to display an EPC rating where you are required to have a valid EPC certificate, see paragraph 4.51 above.
4.79. Listings only need to display the EPC rating, not the full certificate. However, licensing authorities may wish to request a copy of the certificate as part of the licence application verification process. Note that you can be fined for failing to display an EPC rating for your premises on listings under building standards legislation.
- 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 providing cover of not less than £5 million.
4.80. 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 your licence and does not lapse.
4.81. 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.
4.82. Your application will not be considered unless you pay the relevant fee. Your licence will 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.
4.83. 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.
4.84. 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.
4.85. 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.
4.86. Your licensing authority can attach additional licence conditions 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. You can find out more about the additional licence conditions that might apply to you on your licensing authority's website.
Ahmed owns a large house in a rural setting which he wants to use for house parties of up to 15 people.
His licensing authority considers that it is likely that his premises will be hired by stag and hen parties and there is a risk of noise and nuisance issues for neighbours, even though the house is detached with a large garden.
His licence application is approved subject to an additional condition that his guests do not gather in the garden or outdoor areas after 9 pm.
Other matters to consider
4.87. There are other matters you should consider beyond those which are requirements of the licensing scheme.
4.88. If you are providing food to your guests, you should make sure you comply with food hygiene and safety rules. Your licensing authority might ask you about this on the application form. If not covered by the licensing authority, you should make sure you register with your local authority as this is a requirement under the Food Premises (Registration) Regulations 1991 for any business which serves any kind of food or alcohol. Environmental health officers will advise you on how to operate safely and they may visit your premises.
4.89. As set out in paragraph 4.52, you must comply with the law on fire safety as set out in the Fire (Scotland) Act 2005 ("the 2005 Act"). 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.
4.90. 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.
4.91. You can find out more here: www.gov.scot/publications/practical-fire-safety-guidance-existing-premises-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.
4.92. You must comply with the terms of the title deeds of your premises. Some title deeds contain specific conditions around what you can and cannot do covering such matters as wide ranging as: mineral rights; use as a public house; and the keeping of fowl or cloven-footed animals. Your title deeds may contain provision around hospitality.
4.93. You must make sure that you declare your income from your short-term let activity for tax purposes.
4.94. If you have a mortgage or loan secured against your premises, you should check with your lender that you are allowed to use your premises as you intend.
4.95. Generally, it is your responsibility to make sure you comply with any relevant laws that apply to you, your business or your premises.
4.96. You might wish to consider engaging with your neighbours ahead of making an application as set out in chapter 3.
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