Deadline looming

B&B boss slams ‘risible’ data on short term lets

rent property to let
Lettings licence deadline is just one month away (pic: Terry Murden)

Scottish government data has revealed an extremely low level of applications for new short term letting licences, prompting more calls for the deadline to be pushed back.

Official data reveals that no applications have been rejected, and the government has issued reminder that they need to be submitted by 1 October under new regulations aimed at clamping down on rogue landlords and improving standards.

However, the data up to March has been described as “risible”, with only 90 valid applications (3.4 per 10,000 dwellings) in Edinburgh where the local council claims there were 12,000 short term let properties. In Glasgow, just 78 applications had been received (2.4 per 10,000). Aberdeen (2.6) and Dundee (2.4) were also very low.

A total of 2,587 applications had been sent to councils up to the end of March, with well over half of those send in in the first three months of this year. Hosts can continue receiving guests while their application is being determined.

The Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers (ASSC) said there are 32,000 short-term lets in Scotland and the next tranche of data, covering April to June, will not be available until after the October deadline.

There have been ongoing calls for the government to amend its plans, not least from former SNP minister Fergus Ewing who joined the Tories and LibDems in an attempt to push back the deadline.

First Minister Humza Yousaf has insisted the process goes ahead as planned and new data shows that across all 32 council areas no applications have been turned away.

But Fiona Campbell, CEO of the association, said: “Short-term let licensing remains riddled with problems as the 1 October deadline approaches and these statistics offer cold comfort for the Scottish Government. Widespread concern remains throughout the sector after Ministers completely ignored our policy solutions to put things right.

“While the data only covers up to 31 March 2023, the flow of applications remains only a trickle and is unlikely to change anytime soon due to the massive legal uncertainty faced by many local schemes and the onerous and costly nature of the application process.

“In Edinburgh, a whopping 97% of businesses haven’t submitted an application. When Edinburgh-based operators are confronted with a 98% chance of rejection through the planning system, why would they even bother to take forward an application at all?

“Indeed, what the frankly risible statistics don’t show is the total cost for these applications for small businesses like self-catering and B&Bs. For many, it is a cost too high to bear and many long-established self-caterers have already said enough is enough.

“The Scottish Government urgently needs to take stock and pause their licensing scheme to properly get a grip of the situation and work constructively with stakeholders – in the spirit of the First Minister’s New Deal for Business – to put in place a fair, balanced and legally sound regulatory framework.”

Housing minister Paul McLennnan said: “Quality short-term let accommodation is vital to Scotland’s tourism sector and wider economy. It aims to protect the reputation of responsible operators and ensure the sector is regulated in line with other accommodation such as hotels and caravan parks, giving guests assurance of consistent safety standards.

“There has been a lead time of almost two years to the October deadline. Operators can take confidence that local authorities are working pragmatically to support new licensees through the application process – and we can see from the information that no completed applications had been rejected in the period, or since.

“So, I would repeat calls to everyone within the industry to back the scheme and encourage short-term let operators to apply for a licence in good time.”

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