Home   News   Article

Highland Council warned short-term lets licensing may be ‘legally unsound’

By Ally Tibbitt

Register for free to read more of the latest local news. It's easy and will only take a moment.

Click here to sign up to our free newsletters!
Highland Council is looking at introducing a licensing scheme for short-term lets in the region.
Highland Council is looking at introducing a licensing scheme for short-term lets in the region.

Highland Council has been warned a controversial licensing scheme for short-term lets may be “legally unsound”.

This follows a successful court challenge to a similar scheme in Edinburgh.

From October 1, anyone who wishes to rent their property out as a short-term let in the Highlands must have applied to the council for a licence to continue operating.

It is estimated that between 8000 and 10,000 properties in the Highland Council area alone will need a licence, with many of them listed on platforms such as Airbnb.

Related article: Sharp increase in Airbnb properties available in Inverness

But following a court victory for the Association of Scotland’s Self Caters (ASSC), where Lord Braid found parts of the City of Edinburgh Council’s short-term lets licensing policy to be unlawful, the group said it plans to send a letter to Highland Council “shortly” warning that it should “consider any consequences” of the case for their own licensing scheme.

In a July briefing note already sent to every council in Scotland, the ASSC claimed that several local authorities, including Highland Council, had licensing policies that “would arguably be deemed unlawful on the basis of Lord Braid’s decision.”

The ASCC highlights rules that force property owners to supply some documents such as scale plans of properties and Electrical Installation Condition Reports as likely to be unlawful. People applying for a licence in the Highlands must supply both these documents under the local council scheme.

Fiona Campbell, ASSC chief executive, said the Highland Council scheme “remains unfit for purpose,” and argued that it will “cost jobs and damage the tourist sector.”

She said that the Highland Council scheme is so complicated that it will force some people to stop operating.

“With so many livelihoods at risk, it is little wonder that those in the industry have undertaken legal action when licensing is so onerous, disproportionate and perverse,” she said.

“Following the recent judgement from Lord Braid, which found elements of Edinburgh Council’s licensing plans unlawful, other local authorities need to take cognisance of this and consider any consequences for their proposals. A number of schemes, including at Highland Council, are potentially legally unsound.

“Instead, we need a fair and effective regulatory framework which properly balances stakeholder needs, not one which punishes small businesses who do so much to support local economies, especially in rural and remote communities like here in the Highlands.”

According to figures released by the council on short-term let licence applications at the start of August, the council had received 2466 applications. A total of 1166 have been issued and none have been refused.

A spokesman for Highland Council said: “We note the Court of Session judgement of 8 June 2023 in respect of the City of Edinburgh Council’s short-term let licensing policy. This judgement relates specifically to the City of Edinburgh Council’s Policy on short-term lets and it does not have a direct impact on The Highland Council’s own policy or processes.”

Do you want to respond to this article? If so, click here to submit your thoughts and they may be published in print.

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies - Learn More