Scottish legislation for short-term lets came into effect in 2022. It introduced a licensing scheme and a new power which allows local authorities to introduce planning control areas.
Anyone operating a short-term let before 1 October 2022 must apply for a licence by 1 April 2023.
Those who want to set up and operate a short-term let for the first time need a licence before they take any bookings or accept any guests. This applies to new businesses that were not operating before 1 October 2022.
In December 2022, the Scottish Government said it was proposing an extension for existing hosts only. This has not yet been approved by parliament.
Page last updated: 7 February 2023
In this section:
- What is the short-term let legislation?
- Who is it for?
- What do you need to do?
- Next steps to get ready to apply for a licence
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
- Industry Advisory Group (IAG)
- IAG participants
Learn what the legal requirements for letting a holiday property are, and how the new licensing laws in Scotland will work.
Please note that this webpage includes a summary of the law relating to short-term lets. You should take further advice on how the law applies to specific circumstances.
Have you read through this guidance and feel you still need further help or information?
1. What is the short-term let legislation?
The Scottish Government has introduced a licensing regime for short-term lets in Scotland. The scheme requires all local councils to establish a short-term let licensing scheme.
Existing host / operator
Are you an existing host or operator, operating before 1 October 2022? Then you'll have to apply for a licence. Existing hosts have until 1 April 2023 to apply for a licence. You can continue to receive guests and accept bookings while your application is being determined.
The Scottish Government has said it plans to extend this deadline until 1 October 2023, but this has not been approved yet.
New host / operator
New operators of short-term let accommodation must have a licence before taking any bookings. This also applies to existing operators who establish new short-term let accommodations. The proposed extension for existing hosts does not apply to new hosts.
All hosts / operators
Once in effect, it will be illegal to operate a short-term let without a licence in all circumstances. Until in effect, it will be illegal in some circumstances, including:
- Where a new host or operator starts operating while their application is being determined. Or where they continue to operate where a licence application has been refused
- Where an existing host or operator continues to operate where a licence application has been refused
Planning Control Areas (PCAs)
Local councils may also choose to designate short-term let Planning Control Areas (PCAs). This means that you need planning permission to let out whole accommodation in these areas. This is in addition to a short-term let licence.
You may wish to contact your local council for advice if you are unsure whether you need planning permission.
2. Who is it for?
The licensing scheme applies to anybody operating short-term lets in Scotland. All 32 local councils have a scheme. Regulations apply to all short-term let accommodation, unless specifically excluded.
- B&B and guesthouse
- Boat (if static and not used for transportation)
- Exclusive use venue where accommodation is provided (without a liquor licence: Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005)
- Holiday caravan which cannot be moved or on-site glamping pod without a caravan site licence: Caravan sites and Control of Development Act 1960
- Self-catering unit / holiday let, including time-share self-catering units
- Serviced apartment, meaning a flat or residential unit in respect of which:
- Hosts provide services to guests (such as housekeeping, a telephone desk, reception, or laundry)
- Each flat or unit contains its own washing, cooking and dining facilities separate from each of the other flats or units
- A management system prevents anti-social behaviour and imposes limits to the maximum occupancy of the flats or units
- Shared home or rooms within a home
- Shepherd hut
- Tent, tipi or wigwam
- Aparthotels, meaning a building that:
- Is entirely owned by the same person
- Has a minimum number of five serviced apartments that are managed and operated as a single business
- Has a shared entrance for the serviced apartments
- Has serviced apartments that don't share an entrance with any other flat or residential unit within the building
- B&B or guesthouse with a premises licence under the Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005
- Bothy – a building of no more than two storeys that has:
- No mains electricity, piped fuel supply or piped mains water supply
- Is at least 100 metres from the nearest public road and from the nearest habitable building
- Holiday caravan or glamping pod sited within a park with a caravan site licence (Caravan sites and Control of Development Act 1960)
- Hotels with a premises licence under the Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005
- Self-catering accommodation within the grounds of a licenced premises / hotel (Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005). The accommodation needs to be specifically mentioned as part of the operating plan
If you are unsure whether you need a licence or not, you may wish to consider seeking independent legal advice.
Do you have a House of Multiple Occupations (HMO) licence?
If you offer short-term lets within your HMO, you will also need a short-term let licence in addition to your HMO licence. Unless you operate a short-term let for less than six weeks. In that case, you might be able to apply for a temporary exemption if your council offers this.
3. What do you need to do?
Local councils have information and application forms on their websites.
Getting your application right first time will help councils in processing it and it may also help you to get a decision more quickly. The timescales for determination are dependent on various factors including licensing council workloads.
Your licensing council will set out the detail and format of any documentation that you need for your application on their website. Local councils will charge a fee for making a licence application. Fees differ across local councils and for different types of licence, e.g. home sharing, home letting and secondary letting. If you need to apply for planning permission, there will also be a fee for making a planning application.
There are mandatory conditions that every short-term let in Scotland will need to follow. These relate to the safety of the activity. Licensing councils can also set extra conditions according to local needs and circumstances.
The Scottish Government has provided guidance:
4. Next steps to get ready to apply for a licence
We suggest you take the time to consider the following two actions:
- Check with your local council if you need planning permission or a certificate of lawfulness to operate a short-term licence. This is particularly important if you are in a Planning Control Area, but you may also need permissions outwith those areas
- Review the mandatory licence requirements and start the work you need to do to comply
Preliminary requirement list
Please note: This is not an exhaustive list and is provided for reference and assistance. The information contained on this site gives only general guidance and should not be relied upon as legal advice.
|Requirement||Summary of requirement||Further information|
|Repairing standard||The premises must meet the repairing standard for houses and flats. This includes meeting the statutory tolerable standard.||Read more about the repairing standard. (Scottish Government website)|
|Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) (where appropriate)||The premises must hold a valid Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) dated within the last 10 years. An energy assessor, who is a member of an accredited protocol body, needs to carry this out.
Not all short-term lets need an EPC, but individual holiday homes rented out in their entirety do (i.e. self-catering).
You have to display the EPC rating within all advertisements in commercial media.
|Read more about EPCs for holiday lets. (Scottish Government website)|
|Fire safety||Fire safety law requires you to:
Carry out a risk assessment
This is to identify risk to and to take measures for the safety of persons in respect of harm caused by fire in the premises.
Reasonable fire safety measures
A person who has control of the premises must carry out an assessment. These include:
Risk reduction measures
Means of fire detection and warning
Means of fire-fighting provision
Provision of emergency fire action plan
|Read a practical guidance on fire safety - existing premises with sleeping accommodation. (Scottish Government website)
Download the "tolerable standard guidance PDF" on satisfactory fire and carbon monoxide detection. (Scottish Government website)
Read the fire safety guidance for existing premises with sleeping accommodation. (Scottish Government website)
More info on fire safety for small B&Bs and self-catering premises. (Scottish Government website)
|Gas (for premises with a gas supply)||The premises must have a gas safety certificate dated in last 12 months. This will show that a currently valid, annual gas safety check has been carried out on all gas appliances by a gas safe registered engineer.||Find out more about getting a Gas Safety Certificate. (Gas Safe Register website)|
|Electrical Installation Condition report||An electrical safety check and electrical appliance testing need to be conducted of the premises every five years.||View guidance for electric installations and appliances in private rented properties. (Scottish Government website)
Download the “Landlords’ guide to electrical safety PDF”. (Electrical Safety First website)
|Portable appliance testing report||An electrical safety check and electrical appliance testing need to be conducted of the premises every five years.||View guidance for electric installations and appliances in private rented properties. (Scottish Government website)
Download the "Landlords' guide to electrical safety PDF". (Electrical Safety First website)
|Private water supply (where appropriate)||Do your premises have a private water supply? Then you must comply with requirements on the owners of private dwellings as stipulated in the 2017 regulations.||Read more information and guidance from the Drinking Water Quality Regulator for Scotland.|
|Legionella risk assessment||You must assess the risk from exposure to Legionella within your premises, whether it has a private water supply or not.||Find out more about your responsibilities in relation to Legionella. (Health and Safety Executive website)|
|Building insurance||The premises must have valid buildings insurance for the duration of each short-term let agreement.||Make sure you have a valid insurance in place.|
|Public liability insurance||The business must have public liability insurance for the duration of each short-term let agreement. This should cover £2 million as minimum, which extends to liability to paying guests as well as buildings insurance.||Make sure you have a valid insurance in place.|
5. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
We collated the following FAQs in conjunction with an Industry Advisory Group representing the sector. Many questions came from businesses that attended the ASSC short-term let regulation roadshows.
We know there are many more questions related to this new legislation. That's why we’ve pulled some of the key questions – and more importantly answers – to make it a little easier for you. These are currently grouped into three key themes:
More questions will be added in the future, so please check back regularly.
Getting a licence – who, what and why?
If you, as a host, provide residential accommodation to a guest in the course of business, you might operate a short-term let. The new legislation will consider a property a short-term let if the guest does not:
- Occupy the property as their main home and they are not an immediate family member of the host
- Principally use the property to facilitate work or services to the host
- Share the property with the host as part of an educational arrangement
Anyone operating a short-term let without a licence after the scheme has gone into effect could be committing an offence. This is punishable by fine of up to £2,500.
There are transitional rules for existing hosts. These will allow you to continue letting provided you have applied for a licence. This also includes advertising, taking bookings and taking deposits.
Those operating short-term lets before 1 October 2022 will be able to continue without a licence, provided they apply for one before 1 April 2023. The Scottish Government has said it plans to extend this deadline by six months, but this has not yet been approved by parliament.
Local councils will generally have 12 months to make a decision on applications from existing hosts. But extensions are possible.
New hosts starting a short-term let on or after 1 October 2022 will need a licence before they can start operating. You may advertise, but not take any bookings, deposits, or have guests to stay. Local councils will generally have nine months to decide on such applications. But extensions are possible.
In both cases, failure to make a decision by the local council within the relevant timeframe results in a deemed grant of the application. The resulting licence may be valid for up to three years, which you will have to renew.
If the council refuses or revokes your application, you may have to return all or part of your customer deposits. This will depend on what is in your terms and conditions.
There are four types of licence:
This means using all or part of your own home for short-term lets while you are there.
This means using all or part of your own home for short-term lets while you are absent, for example whilst you are on holiday.
This means the letting of property where you do not normally live, for example a holiday let.
Home letting and home sharing
This means you operate short-term lets from your own home. This is both while you are living there but also for periods when you are absent.
The licence holder will be the only person who can deal with the day-to-day running of the property. Agents or day-to-day managers can also be named as holders of the licence.
To get a licence, you must pass a fit and proper test. Your council will take account of different matters. These will generally include:
- Relevant offences
- Noise or other issues
- Adverse reports from consultees including licensing standards officers or Police Scotland
- Neighbour complaints or objections
If you live abroad, your background check (and therefore your application) might take a bit longer to process.
You only need one licence for all short-term let premises if they share the same postal address. "Premises" mean both accommodation and land.
- An operator owns four neighbouring detached cottages on a residential street. Each has a unique postal address, and each occupies its own unique parcel of land (as detailed on the land register). In this case the operator would need four separate licences – one for each premises
- An operator owns four neighbouring purpose-built detached self-catering cottages. All lie on the same parcel of land. Because the accommodation and land are all contained on one site, it should count as a single premises (as detailed on the land register). In this case, the operator would only need one licence to cover all four accommodation units
The council will grant licences for up to three years from the issuing date.
Once you've successfully renewed your licence once, it may be valid for a longer period.
Each local council can set their own fees for licensing applications. These will be set on a cost recovery basis.
If you require a short-term let licence, and you fail to apply timeously but continue operating, you could be subject a fine.
If you do not know whether you require a short-term let licence, please seek legal advice.
Are you an existing operator before 1 April 2022 and have you made your licence application before 1 October 2023? Then you don't need a temporary licence to continue operating. The local council will give you a provisional licence until they determine your application.
If you are a new host, you may consider applying for a temporary licence. You can make a full application for the same premises as the temporary licence. In this case, your temporary licence remains valid until your full licence application is processed.
Please check with your council:
- If you can apply for a temporary licence
- How long it will take to issue them
- How long they are valid (usually six weeks)
- If there are any fees involved
Planning legislation allows councils to designate all or part of their area as a short-term let control area.
In Planning Control Areas (PCAs), short-term lets of a whole house will require planning permission of their licence.
Where a PCA exists, property owners will need to obtain planning permission or a certificate of lawfulness in addition to a licence.
Does your short-term let breach planning controls? Then the local council can issue a "preliminary refusal" of the licence application. Your council will give you the opportunity to resolve the planning aspects.
The entire City of Edinburgh Council area has been confirmed as a Planning Control Area. View the PCA for Edinburgh (Edinburgh City Council). Ministers have also granted permission to Highland Council for Badenoch and Strathspey to become a PCA. A consultation is taking place to help shape the planning policies that will deal with applications in the Planning Control Area.
In a control area, the let of an entire premises will always need planning permission as well as a licence. Outwith, you may need planning permission. You should check with your council.
You may still need planning permission. Please check with your council.
Yes, if you are non-compliant or if there are other legal reasons for your licence to be refused.
You can submit your application either online or on paper in Scotland, although paper is being phased out.
- You can submit on ePlanning.scot
- You will need to set yourself up as a user first. The system is fairly easy to use, but does require a basic level of understanding of the planning process
- Go to ePlanning.scot
- Scroll down until you get to "Can I still make an application using paper forms if I want to?"
- Your local council may also have paper forms to download on their websites
Decision times can vary between councils. You should check with your own local council as they'll be able to advise how long it might take. It usually takes some considerable time to reach a decision. Think weeks or even months.
Please remember, it's inevitable very likely that there'll be an upsurge in applications. So it's best to submit an application as early as possible.
You should be able to continue operating until your licence application is determined as long as you:
- Were operating before 1 October 2022
- Lodged and paid for a valid application for a full short-term let licence before 1 April 2023
- Taking bookings or deposits
- Having guests to stay at your property in terms of those bookings
If there was an issue with your licence, you are likely to have to refund guests their deposits depending on what is in your terms and conditions.
No. If you are a new operator, you may advertise but not take bookings, collect deposits, or welcome guests.
You may likely have to return all or part of your deposits from guests depending on what is in your terms and conditions.
Your terms and conditions should provide for situations arising where there is an issue with your licence. They should also deal with all other aspects of your business. You may want to address deposits, refunds and administration fees in these terms and conditions.
You cannot transfer a licence. A licence is specific to both those named on an application form, and the premises. A new operator will have to apply for a new licence while the old licence continues to run.
Depending on your situation, you might also need to take the following into account:
- The old licence was issued based on an older policy
You will need to make a new licence application, regardless of the policies in play when the old licence was issued. The council will consider your application on its merits in accordance with their policies at that time. But there should be no presumption that they will automatically grant you your licence after application.
- Death of licence holder
If a licence holder dies, the executor holds the licence for a (possibly extendable) three-month period.
- Joint licence holders
If a licence holder is no longer holding the licence, there is a six-week period for the remaining ones to apply for a new licence. If this is not done within the six-week period, the licence would no longer be valid.
The council might want to support you to continue to provide short-term lets without significant delay. If so, they could grant you a temporary licence pending consideration of your licence application.
Ensure that your new certification is in place before the previous ones expires. If there are gaps in the coverage of certification, you may have to explain why. Saying that you could not get contractors may not be deemed a reasonable excuse. Do your certificates not run concurrently? Then you may have to appear at a committee, and this may result in your licence being renewed for a shorter period.
It will be up to the council to determine when objections or complaints are relevant. If so, the applicant and objector will have the opportunity to address the council in a hearing. You can raise any points of competency, evidence, and information at this stage.
There are also appeals processes, which vary depending on the decision you want to appeal. If you are at the stage that you intend to lodge an appeal, you should take legal advice.
- Do you let your property to three or more tenants from more than one household?
- Do some or all of the tenants share toilet, bathroom or kitchen facilities?
- Does at least one tenant pay rent?
Then your property counts as an HMO and will need an HMO licence. If you also offer short-term lets in addition to this style of rental, you will also require a short-term let licence. If, however, you operate for less than six weeks, you may be able to apply for a temporary exemption if your council offers this.
Local councils will set out the evidence they need to treat you as an existing host for the purpose of the legislation. This may mean providing evidence of bookings and payments for the guests you received during the period preceding 1 October 2022.
6. Industry Advisory Group (IAG)
We're working closely with the associations who represent those affected by this legislation. In doing so, we formed an Industry Advisory Group.
Committed to working together, we have set out to make sure businesses have the most up-to-date information. This is in collaboration with the Scottish Government.
We want to help you through the process of applying for a short-term let licence or planning permission.
We’ll be updating this page regularly so do check back.