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Do I need planning permission for a short-term let?

Sometimes planning permission is required for operating a short-term let from your house or flat.

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What is a short-term let?

A short-term let is when a host offers accommodation for a short period of time to one or more guests.  The accommodation does not become the main residence of the guest.  Short-term lets are not the same as private residential tenancies, which require that the tenant occupies the property (or part of it) as their only or principal home. Guests, therefore, do not have the same rights in law as tenants.


When is planning permission needed for a short-term let?

Planning permission is required for 'development'.  The definition of development includes a 'material change of use' of land or buildings, even if there are no physical alterations to the land or building, therefore planning permission is always required for a material change of use.  A change from a flat to a short-term let is always considered to be a material change of use requiring planning permission.  For dwelling houses, the significance of the change must be considered.  Also, sometimes a previous planning permission prohibits rental use by a condition on the decision notice and in such cases, permission would be required.

There are a number of factors which may affect the Council's consideration of whether the change of use is a material change of use.  Factors include a change to local amenity or the character of a neighbourhood or area, safety and impact on immediate neighbours.

Detailed information on when planning permission is required is available in the Scottish Government's publication Guidance for Hosts and Operators - Short-term lets: planning guidance for hosts and operators (opens new window). If you are still unsure if planning permission is required, please email us at, giving us as much information as possible. Alternatively, you can submit a pre-application enquiry  to find out the relevant policies and considerations, and if your proposal has the potential to be supported.


Short-term let licensing scheme

In addition to planning requirements, West Lothian Council will establish a short-term lets licensing scheme in 2022. More information is available on our short-term lets licensing scheme webpage.


Short-term let control areas

The Town and Country Planning (Short-term Let Control Areas) (Scotland) Regulations 2021 (opens new window) came into force on 1 April 2021. These Regulations enable planning authorities to designate short-term let control areas. Planning Circular 1/2021: Establishing a Short-Term Let Control Area (opens new window) explains the process in detail. Within short-term let control areas, planning permission would usually be required for using a house or other structure for short-term lets.  


West Lothian Council does not currently have any designated short-term let control areas but this is currently under review and, if any are intended, will be subject to the necessary consultations.


What to do if you think a short-term let is being operated without planning permission

If you have reason to believe that a short-term let requires planning permission and this has not been obtained, you can report this to the Council's Planning Enforcement Team by visiting our planning enforcement page and reporting a breach on-line.