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The short-term rental and private sector rental markets are once again under intense scrutiny.
Detractors are calling for private sector rent controls and the government is forging ahead with short-term rental legislation that is fiercely opposed by some tourism bodies and industry players.
Under a proposed bill, Scottish ministers are seeking to increase legislation to licence short-term rental accommodation by allowing councils to set up licensing schemes.
The new bill, if passed, will see local authorities setting up their licensing schemes by October 2022, and accommodation providers having until April 2023 to apply for a licence for the property.
Industry bodies, including the Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers, Airbnb, the Scottish B&B Association, and the UK Short Term Accommodation Association, which were part of a Scottish Government working group looking at formulating the policy, all resigned en masse calling the group ‘not fit for purpose’ and a ‘sham’.
Fiona Campbell, CEO of the Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers, said: ‘We are very disappointed that the Scottish Government is pressing ahead with these onerous and ill-considered regulations which will damage Scotland’s vital tourism sector at a time when we should be supporting small businesses to recover from Covid-19.
‘The ASSC has always strived to ensure a balanced and proportionate approach and get a regulatory framework in place that works for all.
‘Our proposals for a mandatory registration scheme with health and safety provisions not only have the support of business and tourism stakeholders but have cross-party political support – with the exclusion of the Scottish Greens.
‘The legislation still has to be approved by parliament and we look forward to engaging with MSPs in the weeks ahead to ensure we find a solution that protects jobs and livelihoods in Scotland’s £867m self-catering sector.’
Despite the criticisms levelled at the proposed legislation, ministers are forging ahead with the proposals saying that they are in response to concerns about spiralling rents and the effects that short-term letting, such as by Airbnb, is having on communities.
Spiralling rents in the private sector rental market is something that West Scotland MSP Katy Clark is calling to be addressed with immediate emergency legislation.
Scottish government statistics show that private rents for two-bedroom properties in Ayrshire council areas have increased by 6.8 per cent in real terms over the last year.
Across Ayrshire council areas there were estimated increases over the past year in average rents for one bedroom of 7.5 per cent, three bedrooms of 1.8 per cent, four bedroom of 9.7 per cent and one bedroom shared properties of 7.3 per cent.
Across Scotland, since 2010, the average rent for a two-bed property has risen from £554 to £693 in 2021, an increase of 25.1 per cent.
The Scottish government has committed to implement rent controls but no timetable has been given to deliver this legislation.
Ms Clark said: ‘Tenants cannot wait years down the line for prices to be capped. Rents have continued to rise during a global pandemic when people have struggled most.
‘Our broken and imbalanced housing model has led to extraordinary rent increases whilst people’s wages have stagnated.
‘There is nothing to suggest these trends will reverse and no reason why action on this must wait until later in the parliament.
‘This is a matter of political will and urgency and I call on the Scottish Government to pass emergency legislation that will protect tenants now.’
West Scotland MSP Katy Clark No_B48rent01