Short term lets have been a hot topic for discussion lately. With the ever increasing regulation of the private rented sector, some owners have been considering whether to use some (or indeed all) of their properties for holiday letting rather than continuing with granting longer term private residential sector leases.

In some parts of the country, there has been a marked increase in the provision of holiday/short term lets, particularly via on-line platforms such as Airbnb. Whilst the contribution to the tourist economy of holiday lets has been recognised, there has also been criticism of the impact in some areas including concern regarding housing supply.

To date, planning law has been used to try to regulate short term letting. However, this is not without difficulty, as whether planning permission for change of use is required depends on the facts and circumstances of each case. There is no current statutory definition of what comprises a short term let and no specific regulation relating to them.

All this is set to change in the next year.

Planning Rules

The Planning (Scotland) Act 2019 (the "2019 Act") allows local authorities to designate all or part of their area as a "short term let control area". The use of a dwellinghouse within such an area for short term lets will be deemed a material change of use, requiring planning permission.

The 2019 Act does not provide a definition of short term let. Scottish Ministers are to issue guidance on this point, though private residential tenancies and lets where the property is the only or principal home of the landlord are excluded.

The requirement to obtain planning permission may give local authorities a measure of control over the number of short term lets in their area. However, it does not provide influence over other aspects of short term lets which give grounds for concern such as health and safety, or impact on the local community in relation to littering, overcrowding and noise etc.

Introduction of Licensing

To address these remaining concerns the Housing Minister announced last month that a licensing scheme for short term lets will be introduced, from Spring 2021. This will coincide with the timescale proposed for the introduction of short term let control areas under the 2019 Act.

It is proposed that local authorities will use powers in the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 ("the 1982 Act") to introduce licensing schemes for short term lets within their areas. The principal aim of a licensing scheme is to give local authorities more information and understanding of what is happening in their area and to improve safety and handling of complaints in relation to short term lets.

Licensing schemes will include mandatory provisions to ensure that all short term lets meet certain safety requirements, although it is not known, at this stage, what those requirements will be and whether they will be as stringent as, e.g. those for HMOs. Local authorities will also have the power to apply further conditions in their licensing schemes, enabling them to tackle other matters such as littering and overcrowding as mentioned above.

Both the planning controls and the licensing schemes are being implemented at local authority level and, accordingly, the rules are likely to differ between local authority areas, as might the costs and duration of licences.


It is understood the aim is to have regulations in place by December 2020, in time to have the planning controls and licensing schemes in place for commencement in Spring 2021, and we will keep you up to date with developments.


Clare Dunlop

Senior Associate