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By Amy Hanlon on 30 Jul 2023

Can I Airbnb A Garden Room?


To everything, there is a season, or so The Byrds said. Your garden room is no different. Maybe you built it as an extra bedroom for your teenagers, who now only visit when their fridge is empty. Maybe you created it as an art studio, but your paintbrushes have long since dried up. A spare room is a spare room, right? 

The very first Airbnb property for rent was literally an air mattress on a living room floor, but these days there are entire luxury homes for rental, and everything in between. So can you Airbnb a garden room?

Yes. But…

It is entirely possible to use some garden rooms as Airbnb properties. If your garden room is compliant with Building Standards, like our Blackstone Garden Rooms, then it can definitely host some guests. Our smaller U12m2 Garden Rooms have a different specification and aren’t suitable for this purpose.

However, even if your building is suitable, it’s complicated. But making complicated easier is exactly why I’m here to help you out!

Airbnb has attracted both credit and criticism. As the company has evolved and grown, protections have been put in place for users and non-users of the site. There’s no way you could chuck an air mattress on your floor these days and call it an Airbnb. Guests have different expectations and so do Hosts.

You may also have read about campaigns to limit the number of Airbnb rental properties to prevent housing shortages. Tensions between local residents and the tourism industry have led to various controls on short-term lets like Airbnb.

Can I Airbnb A Garden Room In Scotland?

A large, spacious garden room office. There is a glass coffee table in the middle of the room, with a wooden bureau against the wall. The room is full of plants and has a square window and a floor-to-ceiling patio door.

The good news is that most of these regulations apply to properties that are usually unoccupied. If you own a second home or flat where you don’t usually, there’s more red tape to navigate.

If you have a second home in the Edinburgh Council area, short-term lets have even more restrictions. Strict legislation around short-let control zones is currently being challenged in court. At the moment this control zone means that any Airbnb property must have both planning permission and a licence.

Do I Need Planning Permission To Airbnb A Garden Room?

If you are building a garden room for the specific purpose of renting it out as an Airbnb, you will need planning permission. Since your building is being built for commercial purposes, this is a slightly different process to applying for permission for a storage shed or a summerhouse. You’ll need an architect to advise on the planning process for a commercial property.

If you already have a garden room that you’ve been using for something else, but now you want to rent it out to guests, then you may not need planning permission, unless you live within Edinburgh Council. 

Remember – wherever you are, if your garden room is part of a second home that you don’t usually live in, different rules will apply. 

If you’re building a garden room with mains plumbing you will need both planning permission and a Building Warrant. However, if you already have a garden room you won’t need these if you decide to add a water supply to use it as an Airbnb.

You can build a separate “outdoor” toilet in your garden room without a Building Warrant, but this must be installed in compliance with the Building Standards regulations. 

See? Complicated!

Do I need a licence to run an Airbnb property in Scotland?

While planning permission might be avoidable, a short-term letting licence is not.

All Airbnb properties in Scotland now need a licence. If you had an Airbnb property before October 2022 you must apply for your licence before October 1st, 2023. 

But, to use a property as a new Airbnb you cannot host guests until you have a licence. Operating without a licence is punishable with a fine of up to £2500 at the moment. There are plans to increase this fine to a maximum of £50,000. Dinnae risk it!

You apply for this licence through your local authority. The different types are:

Secondary Letting

This is for a property that you don’t live in, and which is not part of your usual residence. If you have a second home or a flat that is not usually occupied by you and you want to rent this out to Airbnb guests, this is the type of licence you will need.

Home Sharing

This applies if you want to Airbnb part of your home while you are staying there. This licence would apply to renting out a garden room, as long as you were also staying in your house while your garden room was occupied.

Home Letting

A home letting licence is for renting out part or all of your home while you are not living there. This includes when you are on holiday or travelling for work. This could apply to renting out a garden room, as long as you are not living in your home while guests are staying.

Home Letting & Sharing

If you want to Airbnb your garden room both while you are living in your home and when you’re away, you need a home letting and sharing licence. This licence is your best bet, as it gives you the flexibility of renting your garden room whether you’re at home or not.

How Much Does An Airbnb Licence Cost?

Each local authority has a slightly different structure for these charges. Some types of licences cost more in some places than others, but some places have a single set of charges.

The main factor affecting the cost is the number of people your property can accommodate. The Scottish Government website has a checker to make sure that you apply for the correct type of licence, and links to applications for each local authority.

Your licence must be renewed, usually every three years, although this once again depends on your local authority. In Edinburgh, for example, your initial licence will be granted for one year, but your renewal will last for three years.

How Do I Apply For A Short-Term Letting Licence?

In order to apply for your licence, you will need to provide copies of:

  • An Annual Gas Certificate (for accommodation with a gas supply) 
  • A Current Electrical Installation Condition Report 
  • An Annual Portable Appliance Test Certificate 

You will also have to confirm that you have:

  • A Current Fire Safety Risk Assessment 
  • A Current Energy Performance Certificate 
  • A Current Building Insurance Certificate 
  • A Current Public Liability Insurance Certificate 
  • A Current legionella risk assessment 

Next, you display a public notice stating the details of your application outside your house. This stays in place for 21 days and lets neighbours object to this proposal if it will affect them. 

The application form is fairly extensive. You have to provide your details and the details of anyone else who will manage the property on your behalf. Police Scotland will check these details to ensure that you are a proper and fit candidate.

Is There Anything Else I Need To Airbnb My Garden Room?

A large timber garden room with a veranda and extended canopy.

When you apply for an Airbnb licence you must make sure that your property meets certain standards. This includes a minimum amount of space per person, sanitary facilities like toilets and sinks, and kitchen and cooking equipment. These standards are available from your local council and may come with your licence application.

Don’t forget the costs or time needed for cleaning and maintenance to keep those five-star reviews!

Do I Need To Pay Business Rates On An Airbnb Garden Room?

Ahhh, business rates! Everyone’s favourite topic! 

If guests rent your garden room Airbnb for 140 days or more per year, it counts as a self-catering property, and you must pay business rates.

However, if you’re building a brand-new garden room to Airbnb, no business rates are payable for 12 months from the date of its first use as a rental property.

After that, you can calculate business rates based on the value of the property, but this doesn’t mean that the value of your property is your rateable value. Confused? Don’t be! Here’s an example of how it all works. 

This article also discusses the Small Business Bonus Scheme, which is one of several rates relief schemes available. You can find all the information you could possibly need (or want) here.

Should I Airbnb A Garden Room?

This is the big question. As you can see, there’s a fair amount of paperwork and admin needed to get an Airbnb up and running in Scotland these days. If you’re not looking to build a budding property empire, this may seem like too much red tape just to host a few guests now and again.

If forms and regulations are your most favourite thing (I see you, fellow spreadsheet fan!) then this won’t be a problem at all for you.

Now that you know what’s involved, it’s time to research costs and timeframes and make your decision. Could this be the perfect venture for your garden room in the next season of its life?

And not all Airbnb hosts are focused entirely on profit. If you like nothing better than making spaces beautiful and comfortable, and you love showing people around your wee corner of the world, there’s a whole lot of satisfaction to be had once you’ve finished all the admin!

So what’s next if I want to build a Garden Room Airbnb?

We’d be delighted to supply the building for your garden room Airbnb, but if you are building a garden room for this purpose, you will need the expertise of an architect. The best thing to do is contact your architect FIRST. They will take you through everything that’s involved with Building Control and commercial planning permission. They will also advise you on how to apply for a building warrant. Then reach out to us to settle the details of your dream Airbnb, and place your order.

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