The Scottish Mail on Sunday

Revealed: The devastatin­g cost of SNP’s tax on your holiday home

- By Craig McDonald and Mary Wright

THE extraordin­ary cost and scale of a new SNP tax on holiday homes that will punish property owners and drive up prices for visitors can today be revealed.

From next year, a licensing scheme is being introduced in Scotland for all short-term lets.

The move will see thousands of homeowners and businesses hit with bills running to hundreds or even thousands of pounds a year.

Meanwhile, the fees are predicted to drive up costs for holidaymak­ers, business travellers and staycation­ers across the country.

The scheme means homeowners who occasional­ly rent out a spare room through sites such as Airbnb will need to buy a licence – costing hundreds of pounds a year in some areas.

Owners of traditiona­l B&Bs will also be forced to purchase a permit. The levy will apply to every type of short-term let property, from caravans and glamping pods to castles, shepherds’ huts – and even treehouses.

Under the rules, anyone who offers a shortterm

‘Draconian scheme will drive people out of sector’

Homeowners face crippling new levies for renting their properties... and tourists will be hit too

let without applying for a licence faces a fine of up to £50,000 or even imprisonme­nt.

The charges being brought in differ depending on whether a property is the owner’s main home or a holiday cottage – called a secondary letting – with fees also increasing depending on the number of guests.

The scheme has been introduced by the

Scottish Government but will be implemente­d by councils.

Research by The Scottish Mail on Sunday reveals the exact costs property owners face in different areas. For example, in Edinburgh a secondary letting licence for a property an owner doesn’t normally live in will cost £653 a year for just a single occupant, rising to £5,800 for larger properties.

Even allowing someone to share a spare bedroom in the capital will incur a tax starting at £120 a year.

In the Highlands, where the fragile economy depends on visitors, sharing or letting a house for no more than two occupants will require an applicatio­n for a £320 licence.

The short-term lets licensing scheme was originally designed to tackle the uncontroll­ed growth of Airbnb-style rentals in tourist hotspots such as Edinburgh. But last night key figures in the tourism industry said a ‘draconian’ one-size-fits-all approach will spell disaster for their trade.

The Associatio­n of Scotland’s SelfCatere­rs, representi­ng more than 1,300 operators, warned the legislatio­n will have a devastatin­g impact.

Chief executive Fiona Campbell said: ‘The Scottish Government and councils appear to be comfortabl­e with materially damaging a sector that represents £867 million to the Scottish economy. This draconian scheme will drive many people out of the sector.’

Ms Campbell said the complexiti­es of 32 local authoritie­s all running differbe ent schemes will cause ‘an administra­tive headache alongside huge associated costs for short-term let operators’. She added: ‘It is imperative fees are kept as low as possible given the environmen­t small businesses find themselves in.

‘Alongside the dramatic increased costs faced by all tourism operators, the situation is becoming untenable for small accommodat­ion operators and micro businesses whose profit margins simply can’t bear the strain.’

Edinburgh City Council is planning the highest fees, with those letting out a single room for one person having to pay £360 for a three-year licence, which also requires a host of safety and planning conditions to be met.

Meanwhile, a secondary let in the capital for a property sleeping six people will cost the owner £2,481 a year.

The highest category in Edinburgh will cost an eye-watering £5,869 a year, a sum many businesses already struggling with record utility bills will be unable to afford.

Figures for Western Isles council show a homesharin­g or letting licence for one or two guests will cost £200 for three years while a secondary let will incur a fee of between £300 and £400.

Harsh penalties will also be imposed on anyone operating without a licence. The Scottish Government outlines a maximum fine of £50,000 and adds that Ministers intend ‘to make provision for imprisonme­nt as a last resort for hosts who continue to operate without a licence’. The licences must applied for before April. In recent years Scotland has seen a boom in homeowners using Airbnb-type websites to rent out spare rooms.

An Airbnb spokesman said: ‘Local authoritie­s that announce complex and costly licensing systems risk making it more difficult for ordinary families to benefit from hosting at a time when nearly half of our clients in Scotland say the extra income has helped them with the rising cost of living.’

Although the scheme was intended to reduce problems associated with the rise in short-term home rentals, traditiona­l B&Bs will also be hit.

David Weston, chair of the Scottish B&B Associatio­n, said: ‘These businesses are already safety-compliant and nobody says they were in any way the source of the problems giving rise to the need for new regulation.’

Conservati­ve MSP Miles Briggs said: ‘The SNP refused to listen to the huge concerns from the industry and instead railroaded the legislatio­n through.

‘Small businesses are already suffering with the cost of living crisis and have barely had a chance to get back on their feet after the pandemic. Now they will be hammered with even greater costs and the licensing scheme has turned into a postcode lottery.’

A Scottish Government spokesman said: ‘We are taking action to ensure all short-term lets are safe and local authoritie­s have powers to tackle local issues. Local authoritie­s determine their own licence fees to recover costs specific to their area.’

 ?? ?? EXTRA COST: Bed and breakfast operators will have to pay for a licence
EXTRA COST: Bed and breakfast operators will have to pay for a licence

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