Is the holiday over for short stay accommodation in Scotland?

Posted by Lowlandlettings on 03 March 2019

Are you confused about what the proposed changes to the Planning (Scotland) Bill means for your holiday let? Well, read on and hopefully we can make things a little clearer for you below:

What is the current situation?

Unfortunately, at present there is no definitive, straightforward answer to this question!

Firstly, there is a difference in Scottish Planning Law that applies to houses and flats. A house which is occupied by a single household of up to 5 residents living together falls under class 9 of the use class order whereas occupation of a flat as a residence doesn’t fall under any of the use classes. Therefore, the defined class 9 use of a house permits occupation whether or not as a main or sole residence and is unlikely to constitute a change of use as long as it is occupied by a single household as detailed above. The same does not however apply to a flat.

The question to answer under current legislation regarding flats is whether the occupancy results in a material change of use.

What actually is a material change of use?

We contacted the Planning & Architecture Department of the Scottish Government (who by the way are the most helpful of departments) to get a definitive answer on this.

They said that “In planning terms, any change of use of a building or land may require planning permission if it is considered a material change of use. It is the relevant planning authority for the area in which the development is situated that has the responsibility under planning legislation for deciding whether any particular change of use is material in planning terms. A change of use from a dwelling house (i.e. a residential use) to a short – term letting use may require planning permission. Relevant factors may include whether the owner of the property lives there, how frequently the property is let, how many people occupy the property when it is let, impact on local amenity such as car parking, disturbance to immediate neighbours, etc. Being registered for business rates rather than domestic council tax may also be a strong indicator that the use of the property has changed from residential to business. There is no threshold for the number of days set out in planning, it’s all a matter of fact and degree.”

When asked whether holiday lets currently require Planning Permission their response was “Yes, if the planning authority consider that they do. There is currently an amendment in the Planning (Scotland) Bill which was agreed by the Scottish Parliament that will, when it comes into effect mean that change of use from a dwelling house to a short term let will always be a material considerationi.e. once the amendment comes into effect all short term let properties will require planning permission unless they meet specific exemptions set out in the amendment.   

The department also notes that the amendment may itself be amended at stage 3 of the Planning Bill consideration which is due to take place later this year.

So, in a nutshell:

If this amendment becomes law, it will affect you if:

1. You rent out a property in Scotland as a holiday or short term let that is not your primary residence – for example, your second home; and

2. You do not have specific planning permission from your local authority to operate commercially currently.

If those conditions apply to you and the amendment becomes law, you will have to apply for planning permission from day one of renting the property as a holiday let.

These rules will apply to affected owners across the whole of Scotland – from The Scottish Borders to the Highlands & Islands. However, different local councils may enforce the proposed rules differently.

The current proposed amendment will not affect you if:

3. You rent out your primary residence as a holiday or short term rental – either a spare room or your entire home in which you live for the vast majority of the year

4. You have specific planning permission from your local authority to operate commercially – either as a short term let, or professional accommodation provider such as a boutique hotel, B&B or serviced apartment.

We do hope that this post makes the situation around planning permission for holiday lets clearer and explains what you need to do when the amendment comes into force.

If you need any further information, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us and we will keep you updated as things develop but do bear in mind that it is the owner’s responsibility to keep up to date and comply with any legislation relating to their property.

Happy letting….