Following a judicial review of City of Edinburgh Council’s Short-term let licensing scheme, it was announced on the 8th of June by a ruling in the Court of Session that the proposed scheme is unlawful. This means an inevitable delay to any licensing schemes in Edinburgh.
What is short-term let licensing?
In 2022 legislation was approved by the Scottish Government that gave local authorities the power to restrict short-term lets in their areas through a new licensing scheme. Edinburgh Council responded by designating the whole city as a short-term let control zone and introducing their licensing scheme in response to concerns about the high number of short-term lets in the city. With only 4 months to go until the scheme was due to come into force, a crowd-funded case put to the court by opponents of the scheme has been successful with the court ruling in their favour.
The case against City of Edinburgh Council’s licensing scheme
The case focused on a presumption against allowing properties within tenement blocks to be used as short-term lets unless their owners could demonstrate a case for exemption. The Judge ruled that this presumption was unlawful and that specific elements of the licensing scheme (including lack of provision for temporary licenses and requirement for some hosts to supply floor coverings) went beyond the council’s powers under the legislation. The Judge also found it unrealistic that a host should be expected to gain planning permission but then could fail to gain a license for no other reason that the property was a tenement.
The ball is back in Edinburgh Council’s court to appeal the ruling or amend their licensing scheme to address the concerns that went against them at the Court of Session. It looks near-on-impossible that any scheme will be ready in time for the Scottish Government’s previously stated deadline of 1st October 2023. This date will inevitably have to be extended to allow the City of Edinburgh Council to rewrite their scheme and there will undoubtedly be ramifications for other licensing schemes across Scotland. Opponents hope that Edinburgh council and the government take a more collaborative approach, working constructively with operators of self-catering accommodation, to find regulation that works for all parties.
What does this all mean?
Our opinion is that while the ruling is significant and definitely not what the council were expecting or wanting at this stage, it will only delay the inevitable regulation, licensing and reduction of the number of holiday lets in Edinburgh. The political will to bring properties back into use for owner occupiers or long-term rental is too strong to not be followed through. What the details of the final licensing scheme will be is not clear at this stage. The next chapter in this story is likely to be revised conditions published by the council but when that will be is anybody’s guess.