Short term lets: Fife Council accused of u-turn over controversial new licences

Fife Council has been accused of U-turning on short term let licensing advice just weeks before the national application deadline.
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David Weston, chairman of both the Scottish and UK B&B Associations, said the problem revolves around confusing, poorly worded legislation.

“We’ve been told by B&B owners that back in May 2022, they were told in writing from Fife Council that they didn’t need to apply for a short term let licence because they use Class 7 - a planning status, which includes hotels, hostels, guest houses,” Mr Weston explained. “Recently someone double checked and were told they had to apply. Now they're scrambling to get the information together at the last minute.”

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He said the new rules have put long standing accommodation businesses at risk. If existing businesses don’t apply by October 1, they cannot take any bookings until their licence is approved by Fife Council, which could take months.

A sign promoting bed and breakfast hanging on a wrought iron gate (Pic: TSPL)A sign promoting bed and breakfast hanging on a wrought iron gate (Pic: TSPL)
A sign promoting bed and breakfast hanging on a wrought iron gate (Pic: TSPL)

The Scottish Government legislation has said that hotels, B&Bs or guest houses with a property licenced under Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005 need not apply for the new scheme – but Mr Weston said the legislation is poorly worded.

“One area is where the wording says that hotels with planning permission to operate as a hotel are excluded from the new licence scheme, but guest houses should apply. Guest houses and hotels are in the same planning class so there’s no legal difference between them. It’s a mess,” Mr Weston said. “At the very least it is extremely confusing and unclear. At its worst, it can’t be legally defended.”

John Mills, head of housing services, said regularly updated policy and guidance are published on the council’s website, including links to Scottish Government guidance.

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“The scheme has been widely publicised to make sure hosts and operators are aware of what’s required,” he said. "As we were developing our policy, we responded to an enquiry stating that exclusion applies to ‘properties that have planning permission to operate as a hotel or a guest house that fall under class 7’. However, this is not always the case, and we encouraged hosts and operators to seek independent legal advice to check if they were exempt from licencing.”

Mr Mills continued: “If it is found that we have not provided the correct information we will work with hosts and operators on a case-by-case basis to resolve the situation.”

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