The Scottish Government has introduced a licensing regime for short-term lets in Scotland. Anyone looking to grant a short-term let for the first time from 1 October 2022 will need a licence before they do so. Those who are already granting and operating short-term lets before 1 October 2022 must apply for a licence by 1 April 2023 if they wish to continue doing so. It will be an offence punishable by a fine of up to £5,000 for short-term lets granted without a licence.

What is a Short-Term Let?

The providing of residential accommodation by a host to a guest in the course of business and for commercial consideration will be a short-term let for the purposes of the legislation where:

  • the guest does not occupy the property as their main home and they are not an immediate family member of the host; and
  • the guest is not occupying the accommodation principally to facilitate work or services by the guest to the host, or sharing accommodation with the host as part of an educational arrangement.

Three basic types of short-term letting will need a licence:

  1. home sharing - where the host is sharing their home;
  2. home letting - where the host is letting their own home but is absent during the let; and
  3. secondary letting – where the host is letting premises which are not their own home.

A licence for a mixture of home sharing and home letting is also possible. Certain premises are excluded and will not need a licence including purpose-built or converted student accommodation, hotels, licensed premises that provide accommodation and certain aparthotels with at least 5 serviced apartments in one building. The need for a licence will not apply to these premises and will also not apply when certain tenancies are granted including private residential and social housing tenancies.

What are the main things I need to know now about obtaining a Licence?

Licence applications are to be made to the Local Authority (LA) in the area where the property is located. One licence will be needed for each property and the licence holder will be the only person who can deal with the day to day running of the property. Licences are expected to last around three years but LAs will be able to renew a licence for a longer period after the initial grant. Each LA has the ability to set their own fees for licensing applications.

The person applying for the licence must pass a fit and proper test and the property must comply with health and safety standards including fire safety requirements and up to date compliance with gas and electricity standards. See our article Licensing of Short-term Lets for more information

Will I need to have Planning permission in order to obtain a Licence?

It has always been possible for a local authority to demand that planning permission was obtained for short-term letting, where that activity constituted a material change of use of the property. City of Edinburgh Council have been particularly active in terms of using enforcement powers to ensure that planning permission is obtained or short-term letting ended for some properties within their area. This general power to demand that a host obtains planning permission still exists and can apply to any short-term letting depending on the circumstances and the policies of the relevant local authority.

In addition, the new planning rules on short-term letting introduce a new power for local authorities to designate the whole or any part of their area as a Control Area. The effect of being in a Control Area is to make use for short-term letting of a whole dwelling house or whole self-contained flat, which is not the home of the host (a secondary letting), a material change of use as a matter of law. Such a secondary letting within a Control Area will always need planning permission as well as a licence.

As yet, there are no confirmed Control Areas but the City of Edinburgh Council has consulted on the whole of the council area being a Control Area and Highland Council are also consulting on whether Badenoch and Strathspey should become one.

If a LA considers that planning permission is needed, on receiving a licence application it can suspend consideration of the application pending the applicant dealing with planning aspects. It is anticipated that a LA will insist on planning permission being obtained for secondary lettings in a Control Area but no guidance is given on when a LA will consider that planning is needed in other areas or for other short term lets.

What to do and when?

Existing hosts may be able to apply for a certificate of lawfulness for their actual use if they have evidence of 10 years plus unchallenged use for short-term letting. This would prevent any delay in obtaining a short-term letting Licence and avoid the risk of planning enforcement under either the general planning enforcement powers or any future Control Area enforcement action.

For hosts who do not have such evidence or who are contemplating starting to provide short-term lets:

  • if letting a whole property (secondary letting), they should look out for the decisions of the relevant local authority on establishing Control Areas and be ready to submit a planning application if and when their property falls within a Control Area; and
  • if they are granting any type of short-term let, they should consider their particular circumstances to assess whether they need planning permission.

Planning permission will not be needed in every instance but where there is a possibility that it will be needed, it will be advisable for hosts or potential hosts to seek planning advice at the earliest opportunity. Planning concerns amenity and, although it is not clear from the legislation, the location of the property and factors such as shared entrances and stairs could dictate whether permission is required. Amenity can also be affected by the overall propensity of use. There may be concerns about tipping points being reached in an area, and it may be worth hosts in such an area looking to achieve planning certainty sooner than their neighbouring hosts.


Every local authority is tasked with setting up a licensing system by 1 October 2022. Existing short-term letting operators should consider the potential planning requirements as well as checking whether their property meets the required licensing standards. For those considering entering the short-term letting market, the additional cost of a licence and potentially planning permission should be taken into account. If buying a property, they should consider what information or evidence the seller might provide to allow short-term letting to continue or indeed begin.

If you would like any more information or advice on planning issues related to short term letting or the licensing of short term letting, please get in touch.

This article is a summary of the planning law issues relating to short term letting. Further advice should be taken on how the law applies to specific circumstances.


Neil Collar