LANDLORDS failing to obtain a licence for Airbnb-style short-term lets could face a fine of up to £50,000 under new rules to be rolled out in April.

The Scottish Government will bring forward plans to require all landlords operating properties as shot-term lets to secure a licence from local authorities – but officials have rules out setting a 90-day cap for when properties can operate as such and some may be able to operate without a licence until March 2024.

Due to the Covid-19 crisis, the Scottish Government is only able to consult with the public until October, with legislation set to be put before Holyrood in December.

The Scottish Government had put the licensing plans on hold due to the pandemic, but the Herald revealed in July that the proposals have been put back on track.

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Housing Minister Kevin Stewart stressed that an initial consultation in 2019 “showed broad consensus for some form of regulation”.

He said: “Short-term lets can offer people a flexible and affordable accommodation option and they have contributed positively to Scotland’s tourism industry and local economies across the country.

“However, we know that in certain areas, particularly tourist hot spots, high numbers of these arrangements can cause problems for neighbours and make it harder for people to find homes to live in.

“The views and evidence from our previous consultation and research showed broad consensus for some form of regulation. Our proposals will allow local authorities and communities facing the most severe pressures to take action to manage those more effectively from next year.”

He added: “I believe our proposals for a licensing scheme and short-term let control areas are evidence-based and right for Scottish circumstances.

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“We will be engaging with stakeholders on our detailed proposals over the next four weeks. I am confident that our proposals will allow local authorities to ensure a safe, quality experience for visitors, whilst protecting the interests of local communities.”

Scottish Government research found that in May 2019, there were just under 31,900 active listings on Airbnb – with around 22,000 of these involving whole properties and the remainder largely composed of private rooms.

The primary purpose of introducing the licensing rules is to ensure that properties meet health and safety standards.

Separate plans to allow councils to set up “control areas” will allow authorities to “manage high concentrations” of short term lets and the ability to “restrict or prevent short-term lets in places or types of buildings where it is not appropriate”.

Edinburgh City Council has previously stressed it would like to restrict short-term lets operating in tenemented flats with shared stairs, amid concerns over anti-social behaviour and noise.

But officials have warned that “a control area does not prohibit secondary letting within it, it merely requires planning permission”.

READ MORE: Council set to take over short-term lets in the capital and use them as homeless accommodation

The rules are set to be rolled out from April 1, 2021, but councils are expected to have powers to “set a grace period” where no enforcement action would be taken against landlords while applications are submitted and processed.

Councils will be given a deadline to ensure licensing applications can be submitted by April 1, 2022. With grace periods set up, “all hosts in Scotland must be licensed by March 31, 2024 at the very latest”.

The Scottish Government is set to allow those operating without a licence to face a fine of up to £50,000 while landlords failing to comply with a licensing condition could be hit with a penalty of up to £10,000 – with conditions including a limit to the number of guests staying in the property.

Temporary licences of up to 28 days will be able to be granted by local councils.

Scottish Greens housing spokesperson, Andy Wightman, said that "this action on regulating short term lets is long overdue but welcome nonetheless".

He added: “Today’s consultation document is a comprehensive and detailed outline of what will be required. I welcome, for example, the proposal that online accommodation platforms may have to display licence numbers and that planning consent will be a mandatory requirement for a license.

“However, given that we now know that the vast majority of short term let properties - in Edinburgh at least - are operating unlawfully, there needs to a commitment to the open data and resources to enable regulations to be enforced and for compliance to be monitored.

"I note also that the commitment made in January to review the tax treatment of short term lets is absent from this consultation. I hope that can be rectified soon.”