Leith Links Community Council respond to Scottish Government consultation on regulation of Short Term Lets
The Scottish Governments latest consultation on Short Term Lets gathers final views on proposed new legislation for the regulation of Short Term Lets in Scotland.
Their proposals include a mandatory licensing scheme to ensure that all Short Term Lets are safe and to address issues faced by neighbours. The regulations, if passed by the Scottish Parliament, would come into force by April 2021. These would also give councils powers to manage pressures created by the use of whole properties as short-term lets.
The consultation closes on Friday 16 October 2020. Click here to view the consultation on the Scottish Government website.
In response to the consultation Leith Links Community Council has now submitted its response, which is available below for citizens to view. We would recommend reading our response alongside the consultation papers (available via the link detailed above) otherwise it may not make much sense!
We have went went a bit deeper that the three simple questions apparently ask. This was a very conscious decision in order to make sure the Scottish Government are clear of our position in expectation that the Short Term Let industry will be working to challenge the strength of any new regulation.
There are two principles which run throughout the consultation response;
- The regulation should be clear and simple to understand by public authorities, citizens and the Short Term Let industry. The legislation should not afford opportunities for it to be open to interpretation. This is problematic for everyone involved.
- The cost of the regulation should be entirely borne by the Short Term Let industry. This legislation is required because the industry has failed to self regulate. Application charges should be set at a level which takes account of all costs incurred by local authorities (and other public bodies such as Police Scotland and Scottish Fire and Rescue Service). The public purse is under significant pressure and none of it should be diverted to regulation of Short Term Lets.
Leith Links Community Council is encouraging citizens to submit their own responses to the consultation via the Scottish Governments website. The consultation closes on Friday 16 October 2020. Click here to view the consultation on the Scottish Government website.
Question 1: Please identify any issues with the proposed definition as set out in chapter 4, and how to resolve them.
- Clauses 4.7 a, b, c and d: We agree in part with the definition, in that we agree with clauses 4.7 a, b, c and d.
- Clause 4.7 e: We strongly disagree with the exemption detailed in clause 4.7 e. This is because it is entirely feasible that members of the hosts immediate family may cause or allow to be caused anti social behaviour such as excessive & intrusive noise. Where this would be the case local authorities would need to rely on powers available to them outwith the licensing scheme to address the behaviour such as making use of the Anti Social Behaviour (Scotland) Act 2004, part 7 (anti social behaviour notices), this provision is not easily used by local authorities and results in a significant challenges in addressing anti social behaviour. It would make far greater sense for both local authorities and citizens to have one clear set of regulatory powers for all Short Term Lets.
- Clause 4.7 c and 4.8: We agree that a twenty eight day limit is not required on the basis that any occupation beyond twenty eight days where the Short Term Let becomes a persons only or main home does in fact cease being a Short Term Let and instead become a home with a Private Residential Tenancy agreement (whether or not the actual paperwork is provided or not).
- Clause 4.9: We agree that such arrangements be included within the definition of a Short Term Let.
- Clause 4.10: We strongly disagree that the definition should exclude unconventional lettings. This is because such lettings, including tents, boats, shipping containers, caravans and wooden ‘sheds’ have occurred in the City of Edinburgh with accompanying anti social behaviour. Further, it is entirely reasonable to consider that upon the implementation of new regulation the Short Term Lets industry will seek to make greater use of such lettings places due to the lack of regulation & the associated burdens & cost. This would then create challenges for both citizens & local authorities, which could feasibly lead to a requirement to review the regulation in the near future.
- Clause 4.11: We agree that all Short Term Lets should require a licence.
- Clause 4.12: We agree that all secondary letting should fall within scope of control areas.
Question 2: Please identify any issues with the proposed control area regulations as set out in chapter 5, and how to resolve them.
- Clause 5.8: We agree that any dwelling house used for secondary letting should be able to revert to residential use without planning permission.
- Clause 5.9: We agree that planning permission should be granted for ten years only.
- Clauses 5.11 and 5.12: We strongly agree that the permitted development right should be removed.
- Clause 5.13: We strongly disagree that local authorities should be able to adopt policies which override the provision of 5.11.
- Clause 5.17: We agree that a grace period is required to transition however, this should be in line with clause 6.89 which sets out a up to two year grace period.
Question 3: Please identify any issues with the proposed licensing order as set out in chapter 6, and how to resolve them.
- Clause 6.1: We agree that all Short Term Lets should require a licence.
- Clause 6.4: We agree that local authorities should have up until April 2022 to implement a live licensing scheme. This takes into account the complexities of the implementation of new regulation schemes for local authorities who may have delayed their planning for new regulation due to the pressures of Covid-19.
- Clause 6.5: We recognise that it is reasonable to permit transitional arrangements, as has happened when other new regulation has been introduced.
- Clauses 6.28 – 6.33: We strongly agree that local authorities be required to set occupancy limits.
- Clauses 6.52: We think meet & greet should be mandatory.
- Clause 6.55: We strongly agree that a single national curfew should be defined in the guidance with the latest checking in time being 22:00.
- Clause 6.58: We agree with the intended prohibition and the reasoning outlined.
- Clause 6.6: We do not agree that the following licensing conditions should be self declared compliance: Displaying of licence in the accommodation, legionella risk assessment, displaying of licence number, insurance cover, mortgage or tenancy compliance and planning permission & conditions.
- Clause 6.61: We agree that local authorities should be able to charge fees in order to cover all costs incurred in the operation of the licensing scheme, and we mean all costs incurred including ICT costs, office heating & lighting, stationary, staff travel costs (whilst carrying out inspections etc etc). We feel strongly that the cost of licensing should be borne by the Short Term Lets industry and not the public purse.
- Clause 6.62: We agree that local authorities be permitted to set their own fees as we would expect the actual costs incurred by each local authority to vary greatly. And we agree that the Scottish Government should set parameters in order to ensure some consistency across Scotland.
- Clause 6.67: We agree that a three year licensing period is reasonable, and is similar to that of HMO licence durations.
- Clause 6.68: We agree that the application process should be as simple as possible as this may encourage Short Term Let owners/operators to apply for a license sooner rather than later.
- Clause 6.69: We agree of the need to notify neighbours within twenty metres of the property including all residents in a tenement stair and any adjoining. However, we disagree that this should be undertaken by the applicant. We believe this should be undertaken by the local authority, with the cost recharged to the applicant. Further, we believe that details of applications be published online, and that objections & comments are able to be submitted online, using a similar platform as is currently used for planning applications. Again, the cost of introducing any such online platform be met by applicants. Further, we are of the view that local authorities can increase this distance if it fits with the local character of housing e.g. a property in a built up area may be across a courtyard from another property where sound will travel and bounce off of buildings, carrying the sound further. Furthermore, the 20m radius must include the boundary of any wall for the property e.g. a garden which connects with the back garden of another garden, as happens in tenements, will affect all the properties of the residents who use the neighbouring garden.
- Clause 6.70: We agree that the notifications can be combined. However, we believe that the notifications be undertaken by the local authority, with the cost fully re charged to the applicant. Including staff time, postage and printing.
- Clause 6.73: We agree with this provision.
- Clause 6.74: We strongly agree with the grounds for objection as stated. However, we also believe that a further ground should be included – that the applicant is ‘not a fit & proper person to hold the license (licensing)’, as referred to in 6.83. A similar procedure as used in the consideration of HMO licenses.
- Clauses 6.75 – 6.79: We agree with the provisions stated.
- Clause 6.80: We disagree that you should not require anybody applying for a short-term let licence to apply also for an HMO licence, even if the circumstances would otherwise require one. For example in Edinburgh some properties are used for Short Term Lets during university holiday periods such as summer, and are used as HMO properties for the rest of the year.
- Clause 6.81: We agree that Police Scotland and Scottish Fire and Rescue Service should be consulted on each licensing application. Further, we agree that the costs incurred by such public authorities be entirely recharged to the applicant. We also agree that the licensing officers processing such applications or dealing with any enforcement should be able to consult with any other local authority service area, again the cost being recharged to each applicant. We also agree that local authorities should be able to share licensing information.
- Clause 6.82: We agree that local authorities should have the power to visit a property as part of the application. However, we also believe that this power should be extended to Police Scotland, Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and any other person required by the local authority to provide technical advice such as an electrician to carry out a visual electrical inspection etc. However, we do not believe that this should be optional. We believe that every property should be inspected. All costs incurred should be recharged to the applicant.
- Clause 6.83: We agree with the provisions as outlined.
- Clause 6.84 – 6.89. We agree with the provisions outlined, as transition arrangements are common when new regulation is introduced. However, local authorities should encourage applicants to apply as soon as possible within the grace periods and should provide a suitable amount of support to do so. Again, at the cost of the applicant.
- Clause 6.90; We agree with this provision, which will lessen the burden on the local authority and be beneficial for neighbours.
- Clause 6.91: We strongly agree that local authorities should be able to recover all costs from applicants: we believe this should be a requirement. Further, that Police Scotland and the Scottish Fire & Rescue Service also be able to recover any incurred costs from the applicant.
- Clause 6.95: We strongly disagree that local authorities be encouraged to reward good compliance and good compliance with a reduction in charges.
- Clause 6.99: We agree that the local authority have the right to attend the premises unannounced, and where required force entry, providing there is proper oversight. Again, any costs incurred should be recharged to the applicant / license holder.
- Clause 6.101: We disagree that there should be no charge for routine visits. We believe the entire licensing regime for Short Term Lets should be paid by applicants/license holders, with no costs passed to the public purse. The greater regulation is only required because the Short Term Let industry has not successfully self regulated.
- Clause 6.103: We are strongly supportive of any and all costs being recharged to the applicant/license holder.
- Clause 6.106: We strongly agree that the license holder should be responsible for ensuring compliance even if they are not present. We think this is very important.
- Clauses 6.109 – 6.114: We agree the intentions etc detailed.
- Clause 6.115 and 6.119: We think that the level of fines is unacceptably low when considered against the value of properties used for Short Term Lets and the level of income which can be obtained through Short Term Lets in such properties.
- Clauses 6.116 – 6.118: We agree with the intentions detailed.
- Clauses 6.120: We agree with the intentions detailed.
- Clause 6.121: We do not consider the value of fine as being high enough, when considered against the value of properties used for Short Term Lets and the level of income which can be obtained through Short Term Lets in such properties.
- Clauses 6.125 – 6.130: We disagree that a license should in any way be automatically granted. Each license, upon expiration should be fully considered as if it was a new application. Again, any costs incurred being recharged to the applicant.
- Clause 6.131: We agree that a new license application should be submitted where a change of licensee is required but we believe that use of the premises should not be permitted to continue.
- Clauses 6.133 and 6.135 – 6.138: We do not agree that the local authority can waive any aspect of the licensing application process in any circumstances.
- Clause 6.134: We agree with this provision. And would suggest that where any licence is revoked, any and all other licenses held should be reconsidered.
- Clause 6.140: We believe that the register should be updated at least monthly. Due to the large number of such applications expected in Edinburgh, there could be huge gaps in the register if it is only updated four times each year. Again, any costs incurred by the local authority shall be recharged to the applicant.
- Clause 6.142: We agree with this provision but believe it needs to be extended to include public authorities such as Police Scotland and Scottish Fire & Rescue Service.