Scottish election 2021: Airbnbs to require planning permission under Labour proposals

Regulation around rent and short-term lets will be tightened by Scottish Labour should they win the Holyrood election in May.

The pledge goes further than the SNP’s equivalent proposals of a licensing regime for Airbnbs and designated zones in which planning permission is needed for short-term lets.

Instead, Anas Sarwar’s party will require those using residential property as holiday lets to gain planning permission as a necessary requirement and introduce a licensing regime similar to the plans ditched by the Scottish Government earlier this year.

This would aim to improve safety standards and provide clearer data on the scale of the unregulated Airbnb and short-term let market which could then be used to direct further regulation.

Anas Sarwar is set to announce plans for Airbnbs to require planning permission if Labour win the Holyrood election

A Fair Rents Bill will also be a legislative priority in the first two years of a Scottish Labour government, it is understood.

Mr Sarwar said the policies would “rebalance the relationship” between tenants and landlords and would have “fairness at its heart”.

He said: “Many Scots are paying sky high rents for housing that is too often damp, dark and dingy.

“As we come out of the Covid crisis, Scotland deserves a Parliament focused on recovery, giving everyone access to a safe, warm, affordable home.

“SNP reforms to the private rented sector haven’t worked. Our plan for renters will enable people to re-balance the relationship between landlords and tenants, and tackle the issue of unregulated short-term lets.

“We need a system with fairness at its heart.”

The SNP has said it will reintroduce the ditched legislation around short-term let regulation early in the next parliament, while Scottish Labour has said it will not introduce the new rules until after the recovery phase from Covid.

On Friday, Mr Sarwar announced proposals for a Scottish Government-backed subsidy of tourism accommodation stays, with the public given a free third night in tourist accommodation, capped at £100.

The policy – similar to the Eat Out To Help Out restaurant policy last summer – would see accommodation providers claim a rebate on the free stay from the Scottish Government and would be covered by Covid-19 consequentials in the budget.

The Fair Rents Bill planned by Scottish Labour would be substantively similar to the one tabled by Pauline McNeill in the last Parliament, but blocked by the SNP and the Scottish Conservatives, it is understood.

The bill calls for a cap on rent rises tied to inflation, the requirement for publication of rent prices charged by landlords, and the ability for a tenant to apply to a rent office to have a ‘fair open market rent’ set for their property.

It was blocked by the SNP and the Scottish Conservatives in Holyrood in the last session, but will return as part of Scottish Labour’s manifesto.

Responding, Kevin Stewart, the housing minister and SNP candidate for Aberdeen Central, labelled Labour “hypocritical”.

He said: “The SNP has already taken action to allow councils to introduce short-term let control areas and if Labour had not withdrawn their support at the last minute, a licensing regime would already be in place too – and we will implement this if re-elected.

"The SNP has also already pledged to protect tenants from unreasonable rent hikes by reforming rent pressure zones to make it easier for local authorities to control high rents and to introduce a new Rented Sector Strategy to strengthen tenants' rights and give people affordable choices when renting."

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