B&Bs and Airbnbs face licensing penalty

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Self-caterers, B&Bs and Airbnb providers may quit the holiday market because of new legislation coming in, tourism groups have warned.

A new government licensing regime for short-term lets becomes law in April with councils given until April 1 2022 to set up a scheme and hosts given until April 1 2023 to apply.

The Scottish Government says it is necessary because of the impact short-term lets can have in communities including noise, nuisance, anti-social behaviour and reducing residential housing stock which is lost to the tourism sector.

But opponents warn it could cost some businesses thousands of pounds and many would quit, with a knock-on impact on local economies which rely on overnight visitors staying and spending locally.

Oban and Lorn Tourism Alliance (OLTA) and the Scottish Tourism Alliance are among the organisations opposed to the new regime.

Ministers have said it would not be too ‘onerous’ and operators would be required to pay between £223 to £337 for a three-year licence.

But the Scottish B&B Association claims costs could reach up to £1,000 and more.

The Association of Scotland’s Self Caterers (ASSC), based at Arrochar, said nearly half of its members have indicated they may leave the sector once the new fees come in.

Linda Battison, OTLA marketing director, also runs Cologin Country Chalets and Lodges. She said it could add as much as £20,000 to her company’s cost base.

Ms Battison said: ‘I am seriously concerned if this passes into law Oban’s tourism industry will suffer and that will impact every other business in town.

‘Self-catering is a hugely popular accommodation option for visitors, especially those with pets and children. It’s Covid-safe and offers flexibility and choice.

She added: ‘The sector is well-placed to lead our area’s tourism recovery and this is the last thing it needs on top of the increased costs of being Covid compliant and facing another reduced season with travel restrictions and complicated rules on households holidaying together.’

The government said the legislation introduces a mandatory set of standards to protect guests and neighbours in short-term lets.

Most operators would already meet basic safety standards and most, if not all, would meet the mandatory criteria, it said.

But Mrs Battison said the proposal was a ‘sledgehammer approach’ to cracking a perceived problem with a minority of operators in Edinburgh and some tourism hotspots.

‘The legislation will do nothing to combat lack of affordable housing or anti-social behaviour in city centre party flats,’ she said. ‘Most councils don’t welcome this and simply don’t have the resources to implement the scheme.

‘There are no grandfather rights so even those operators who have been trading legally for many years and meet all the current health and safety legislation will still have to apply and there is no guarantee they will be granted a licence.’

‘Many self-catering properties are likely to be left empty for much of the year as owners decide it is simply not worth the hassle and cost of meeting the new licensing scheme.

‘This will impact negatively on the local economy as self catering visitors support bars, restaurants, shops and all number of tourism businesses, particularly in rural areas,’ she said.