The date by which anyone running a short-term let (STL) in Scotland needs to have their paperwork in order is 1 October 2023. If they don’t, they must stop marketing and taking bookings for the property and stop welcoming guests.
In May 2023, certain aspects of Edinburgh Council’s licensing regime for STLs were found by the Court of Session to be unlawful. What was unlawful was the presumption against granting licences (e.g. in tenemental properties) which gave no consideration to the actual merits of the application. A licensing scheme (such as those for landlord or HMO licensing) is designed to manage safety and neighbour concerns, with an underlying expectation that well-run businesses will be granted a licence.
The blanket requirement to install carpet in STLs even where there was no evidence of a problem, and even on the lowest floor, was also found to be irrational and therefore unlawful.
The whole of Edinburgh has been designated an STL Pressure Zone, meaning that in addition to a licence, operators must obtain planning permission for change of use (or a certificate of lawfulness if the property has already been in use as an STL for 10 years).
The Council has no choice about granting certificates of lawfulness if the 10-year period is proved, although almost none have yet been granted. But change of use applications are unaffected by the judicial review case, and so will presumably still be determined on the basis that STLs are incompatible with residential amenity in any building with shared space such as a common stair, shared street door or garden space.
Nevertheless, for reasons that we do not fully understand, very few of the planning applications that have been made for STLs in Edinburgh have actually been decided – most are still open ‘pending consideration’. Presumably, the Planning Department awaits further guidance in expectation of further litigation.
What then will happen on 1 October – will the industry really shut down overnight? A huge reduction in Edinburgh’s self-catering accommodation was already apparent during this year’s Festivals. However, there are some who suspect it is simply on pause, hibernating until the law clarifies what’s possible once and for all.—Caroline Roussot
A joint statement on related issues has recently been issued by the Cockburn Association, Edinburgh Old Town Association, Grassmarket Residents Association, Living Rent, New Town & Broughton Community Council, and PLACE. You can read it in the file attached below.