On October 1, Fife Council’s new Short-term Let Licensing Scheme entered into effect.
The new rules on short-term let accommodation reflect Fife Council’s compliance with Scottish Parliament legislation adopted on January 19, 2022.
Upon the legislation’s adoption in January, Scottish Housing Secretary Shona Robison expressed how, “This legislation is a significant milestone on our path to bringing in an effective system of regulating short-term lets.”
“Our licensing scheme will allow local authorities and communities to take action to manage issues more effectively, without unduly curtailing the many benefits of short-term lets to hosts, visitors and the economy.”
In Fife, the scheme requires that new hosts and operators “obtain a licence before accepting bookings, while existing hosts must apply for a licence by April 1, 2023. It also requires that properties meet certain mandatory conditions regarding their safety and management.
The new licensing rules apply to property types including Airbnb listings and unlicensed bed & breakfast operations, while the rules exempt properties like hotels and caravan parks that possess existing licences or adequate planning permission to operate. Regarding student accommodation and properties with house in multiple occupancy (HMO) licences, Fife Council specified that “student accommodation is excluded but private houses and flats that are let to students during term time and as short-term lets outwith term time are not excluded.”
The new regulations come after years of discussion surrounding the negative effects of short-term lets on housing supply across Scotland and Fife — a problem particularly acute in St Andrews.
In a previous statement to The Saint, the University of St Andrews cited short-term lets as one of “a range of external factors beyond the University’s control have impacted the private accommodation sector in St Andrews.”
“Changes to the law in Scotland which put more power in the hands of tenants have led to increasing numbers of private landlords choosing to let their properties via the Air BnB (sic) market, rather than rent to students.”
In one public Airbnb listing for an “airy, very central flat with private parking” in St Andrews, the host divulged that while she had bought the flat to house students including her daughter, she had converted the flat to a short-term let after her daughter graduated.
This listing reflects broader trends: this past spring, some St Andrews students reported being evicted from their privately-rented HMO flats, as landlords sought to convert their properties to short-term accommodation for the 2022 Open Championship, a major international golf tournament attracting thousands of visitors to St Andrews.
The Scottish legislation and Fife’s new licensing rules may open the door for future regulations and limitations on short-term lets.
Shona Robison, the Scottish Housing Secretary, added that the January legislation “will allow local authorities and communities to take action to manage issues more effectively, without unduly curtailing the many benefits of short-term lets to hosts, visitors and the economy.”
In recent months, Fife Councillors have acknowledged the pressure which short-term lets are placing on communities and are considering the possible implementation of control zones for short-term lets in certain areas of Fife.
Illustration: Sarah Knight