Airbnb hosts are “bewildered” by the Scottish Government’s plans for a licensing scheme for their properties, the company has told MSPs.
Groups representing owners of short-term lets gave evidence to a Holyrood committee on Tuesday, with one saying the plans would be “hugely damaging” to the Scottish economy.
Under the plans, all short-term let properties will need to have a licence from councils by 2024.
Ministers had hoped to introduce a law tackling the growth of short-term lets before the Scottish Parliament election in May.
However it was delayed following a backlash from some MSPs.
Those giving evidence on Tuesday raised concerns about the cost of acquiring the licences.
Amanda Cupples, Airbnb’s general manager for northern Europe, was among those who spoke to Holyrood’s Local Government Committee.
She said a survey of hosts found that 51% said they would cease to rent out their property if the regulations were introduced.
She said: “I’m constantly in dialogue with the host community in Scotland.
“To give some colour to that quite dry statistic, I think the overall mood is really one of bewilderment.
“It is the cost that comes through as one of the primary concerns.”
She said that Airbnb hosting contributed £677 million in gross value added to the Scottish economy in 2019, while supporting around 33,500 jobs.
Short-term accommodation can provide a “flexible, scalable solution” when cities host major events, she said.
Fiona Campbell, of the Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers, raised the impact of the pandemic.
She said: “We’re not even out of survival mode, realistically, we need to be able to recover.
“Unfortunately, this licensing legislation is going to be hugely damaging to the Scottish economy.”
Ms Campbell said the cost of the licences was unclear, suggesting it could be as high as £1,500.
She raised further concerns about the licencing scheme, saying: “What happens if a vexatious neighbour complains about the activity?
“We’ve got one, I’ve experienced this – he assaulted me in 2018 because we operate a self-catering property near his house despite the fact he’s never had any problems associated with that activity.”
David Weston, of the Scottish Bed and Breakfast Association, said he was “surprised” B&Bs had been included in the legislation.
He said: “Everybody seems to agree, traditional B&Bs are not the source of a lot of the problems that this legislation seeks to address.”
Shomik Panda, of the UK Short Term Accommodation Association, called for lighter-touch regulation.
In written evidence, he said: “We do feel very strongly that the current legislation would be disastrous for the sector and for local economies up and down Scotland.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Short-term lets can offer people a flexible travel option. However, we know that in certain areas, particularly tourist hotspots, high numbers of lets can cause problems for neighbours and make it harder for people to find homes to live in.
“The licensing scheme and control area legislation give councils the powers to take action where they need to.
“We appreciate the input from tourism bodies, local government, community organisations and others in reaching this point, and look forward to delivering a short-term lets licensing scheme that works for Scotland.”