However as much as this has been good news for consumers and for those brands looking to disrupt the market, those who are managing policy and regulation around these areas are struggling to keep up with the pace of change.
We only need to look at laws around Airbnb to see this. Homeowners up and down the country have jumped on the opportunity to make extra income by offering their home or part of it to tourists looking for an authentic yet cost effective travel experience. It was reported earlier this year that £675m was earned by UK households since July 2016 from the rental site, an average of £3000 per host.
It’s hard not to see the attraction for people to do this, especially as on the surface it appears so easy, there doesn’t seem like there’s a lot of hoops to jump through to generate additional income.
However, in Scotland, this could become a lot harder with the recent proposal by the Scottish Greens that would require homeowners to obtain full planning permission for all Airbnb and short term lets through the Planning (Scotland) Bill which is being considered by the Scottish Parliament.
For many it’s difficult to believe that something like this isn’t in existence already. And that’s partially true. At the moment planning permission is only required sometimes, it really depends on the type of property you have and the way in which it was used before changing it into a short term let. Planning permission is required in situations whereby becoming a short term let amounts to ‘a material change of use’ of the property.
So, what are the relevant factors when considering if there has been a material change of use? Well this can be anything from the increase in the numbers of people staying, frequency of arrivals and departures and frequency and intensity of noisy or otherwise unsociable activities.
At the moment Airbnb in Edinburgh are proportionately four times greater than London or Paris. The rise of short term lets has also impacted the number of available residential properties in the capital, as well as in rural areas like the Highlands.
With these figures in mind, it’s easy to see why people would be concerned about the effects on the local community. The introduction of having to apply for planning permission would allow planning authorities to consider these types of factors and look at the bigger picture in terms of impacts on those living in close vicinity to these types of properties before granting consent.
The City of Edinburgh Council have been particularly vocal on their support to an increased regulation of the sector given the current situation in the city. They believe that a licence should be required for anyone either operating a property on a commercial or professional basis – or for at least 45 days a year. It would also give the Council greater control on capping the number of properties licensed across the area.
With no set regulations at the moment, many people who are considering this is a source of income in the future are still unsure where this current situation puts them. The answer is that the devil will be in the detail once the Planning (Scotland) Bill becomes an Act. In the meantime, consideration should be given if planning permission should be applied for if a material change of use will occur from residential to short stay accommodation.
There’s no doubt that for many even with new regulations on the horizon the positives will continue to outweigh the negatives when it comes to Airbnb and short term lets. However, one thing that can’t be denied is how great it is to see that Scotland and the UK still continues to attract a healthy number of tourists, no matter what type of accommodation is on offer.