“Self-catering properties have been a long-standing presence in the capital for decades, enhancing the tourist offering and boosting the local economy, and should not be used as a convenient scapegoat for policy failures elsewhere” - Fiona Campbell, chief executive officer of the Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers
On Wednesday August 11, the City of Edinburgh voted to approve consultation relating to a city-wide 'short term let control area'. If this comes in to affect in the future property owners will need to acquire change of use planning permission to use their property as a short term let. If an entire property has been continually operated as a short-term let for a decade in and no enforcement action has been taken during that time, planning permission would not be required and it may be possible to apply for a Certificate of Lawfulness to confirm lawful use. The proposed regulations will not impact those renting out spare rooms within their own homes or renting their properties out while they themselves are on holiday for example. But, this only applies if the property is your principal dwelling.
A short-term let is defined by Regulation 2 of the Town and Country Planning (Short-term Let Control Areas) (Scotland) Regulations 2021, which states a short-term let is a property that meets all of the following criteria:
a) sleeping accommodation is provided to one or more persons for one or more nights for a commercial consideration,
b) no person to whom sleeping accommodation is provided is an immediate family member of the person by whom the accommodation is being provided,
c) the accommodation is not provided for the principal purpose of facilitating the provision of work or services to the person by whom the accommodation is being provided or to another member of that person’s household,
d) the accommodation is not provided by an employer to an employee in terms of a contract of employment or for the better performance of the employee’s duties, and
e) the accommodation is not excluded accommodation
In Short-Term Let Control areas you will need planning permission to use your property in such a way but also Scottish Government is proposing legislation, meaning irrespective of type of accommodation (Airbnb, self catering, B&B) you will also need a license to operate by 1 April 2024. If the legislation is passed, it will be a mandatory condition of licensing within a control area to have the appropriate planning consent for your properties or be in the process of applying.
The reasons for the introduction of the Short-Term Let Control Area were outlined in a report to the City of Edinburgh Council Planning Committee on 11 August 2021 (the full report can be viewed here
- “To help manage high concentrations of secondary letting which affects the availability of residential housing and the character of neighbourhoods;
- To restrict short-term lets in places or types of building where it is not appropriate; and
- To help ensure that homes are used to best effect”.
Expanding on the above, Edinburgh has a high number of tenement properties, with shared communal spaces and stairwells, resulting in more complaints relating to noise and disruption associated with short term lets. In addition, as argued in the council report, the increased numbers of short-term lets reduces the supply of available homes for longer term lets, for people who actually want to live in the city full time. Edinburgh has the highest number of dwellings being used as short-term let properties of any local authority in Scotland. In the report ‘Analysis of the Impact of the Edinburgh Short Term Rental Market – 16 July 2018’ completed by Rettie & Co it is highlighted that between 2014 – 2017, the private rented sector stock fell by 560 properties per annum, with 2,700 individual properties listed on Airbnb.
The report to the council notes “the designation of a Short-Term Let Control Area does not mean a blanket ban on such uses: each case will have to be assessed on its own merits”. In Lichfields’ experience, the success of a change of use application for a short term let is based on its impact on neighbouring properties, with private access to and from the property being the most significant factor.
So far the approval is just to consult on the proposals to designate the entire Council area as a Short Term Let Control area. Following that consultation, the Council will need to decide whether or not they wish to proceed with the designation. If they do they will need approval from Scottish Ministers.
If you are the owner of properties that you let on a short term basis now is the time to get ahead of the game. The requirement for you to have planning permission for this use is coming.
Do you have a short-term let property in Edinburgh? If you wish us to make an application on your behalf, or are looking for planning advice regarding short-term let properties please get in touch with our Edinburgh office.