Short-term lets licensing scheme in Scotland: What are temporary licences and temporary exemptions?

The third instalment in our series covering the new short-term letting regulations in Scotland looks at temporary licences and temporary exemptions within the licensing scheme, with additional information on possible lengths, conditions and application processes. 

8 September 2023

Short-term let housing


On the 1 October 2022, the short-term let licensing scheme began a phased introduction in Scotland. By January 2025, all hosts must have a licence in place once the scheme is fully in effect.

If you are wondering if you need to apply for a licence, when the deadlines are, and how to apply read the first article in our short-term let licensing series to find out more. Our previous article covered planning permission and licence conditions which you will also need to consider if you own or operate a short-term let. Our FAQ page can also be found here.

An important aspect of the new licensing scheme to be aware of is the provision for temporary licences and temporary exemptions.

Temporary exemptions from the requirement to hold a licence may be made available by local authorities for specific events, while temporary licences may be granted for very short periods of time. This article explains the possible length, conditions, and application process for these short-term solutions.

Temporary Licences

What is a temporary short-term let licence? 

It is important to understand the distinction between a temporary licence and a temporary exemption. A temporary licence still requires you to apply for and be granted a form of short-term let licence. A temporary exemption is an application to be exempt from the requirements of the licensing scheme.

Your local authority may offer temporary licences which, if granted, will permit you to take bookings and welcome guests for a restricted period of time of up to six weeks. You will be given a temporary licence number if you are granted a temporary licence.

How long will my temporary short-term let licence last?

If you have not applied for a full licence, your temporary licence can only run for a period of up to 6 weeks. However, if you have applied for a full licence at the same time as your temporary licence, then your temporary licence will continue to be valid until your full licence application is determined by the licensing committee (which could take several months).

Will my temporary short-term let licence be granted? 

Local authorities have the ability to grant temporary licences, but are not required to do so. Each local authority has published the full details of their licensing schemes. Some local authorities offer temporary licences, and others do not.  

For a temporary licence to be granted, your short-term let must comply with the mandatory conditions. These conditions provide basic standards that each short-term let must meet. Importantly, it is a mandatory condition to have planning permission in place if you are required to have it. More detail on the mandatory conditions and planning permission requirements can be found in our previous article in our short-term lets series.

What is a temporary exemption?

A temporary exemption gives you the ability to take bookings and accept guests in your property without having a licence in place. During special events (for example, festivals, major sporting events, etc.), your local authority may grant you a temporary exemption for a fixed period of time which allows you to operate despite not having a licence.

How long will my temporary exemption last?

Local authorities have the flexibility to grant temporary exemptions for up to six weeks over a 12 month period. 

It’s important to note that a temporary licence may be utilised over more than one time period. For example, an applicant could apply for a temporary exemption for the Fringe Festival and then again for the winter period, provided the cumulative total does not exceed six weeks. The applicant would, however, need to pay an application fee for each letting period.

Do I need to apply for a temporary exemption?

You must apply to the relevant local authority for a temporary exemption. This process will be slightly different to the licence (or temporary licence) application process and should be shorter and have a lower fee.

Although you won’t need to provide as much information in an exemption application, you will still be required to comply with those mandatory conditions the local authority has applied in respect of temporary exemptions. These mandatory conditions can include your property having planning permission where required, meeting a number of safety standards, and not exceeding a maximum occupancy level. The local authority can check and enforce any conditions attached to your exemption, including by visiting your premises, so it will be important to understand and meet the conditions.

Some local authorities have chosen not to issue temporary exemptions under any circumstances. Others will attach particular conditions to an exemption or enforce deadlines for applying ahead of an event.   

The approach each local authority adopts may not be uniform across the country, so it will be important to understand the conditions and application process for each local authority relevant to you and the right solution in your circumstances.

It is important to be aware that although a local authority may grant a temporary exemption from the requirement to hold a licence, that will not affect the way the planning rules apply.

Where a licence is required, and a temporary licence or exemption is not in place, it is a criminal offence for a host to continue to operate. Hosts who have a number of properties should take care to understand the variety of conditions and requirements that may apply to each of their properties. 

Our licensing team, led by Partner and Solicitor Advocate Kevin Clancy, has been advising clients in Edinburgh and throughout Scotland in respect of their applications for short-term lets licences. If you wish to discuss how these new regulations will affect you, please get in touch with our specialist licensing team, or email at, who are more than happy to assist.