Legal requirements for holiday rentals in the UK

How to legally rent out a holiday letting

  • Getting permission for your holiday let
  • Information about insurance 
  • Safety tips for holiday rentals

January 2024

Who doesn’t fancy making a bit of money on the side? If you’ve got a cottage or home in a nice location sitting around empty, you might be tempted to start letting it out as a holiday rental. That can certainly be a nice little earner – but make sure you stay on the right side of the law. Before you get started, check out this handy guide to holiday letting legal provisions.

Getting permission for your holiday let

Laws can vary a bit depending on which part of the UK you’re in. In some cases, you may even need to get planning permission before you can turn a property into a holiday rental – particularly if it was previously used as a residence. If you’re in Scotland, things are particularly thorny. You’ll need to acquire a short-term accommodation licence before you can start letting out a holiday home. If you’re caught operating without one, you’ll face fines of up to £2,500.

In England and Wales, you don’t need a licence to rent a room privately, but your property must meet certain standards. For example, it has to:

  • Be fully furnished
  • Be available for at least 210 days of the year
  • Not be occupied by long-term tenants for more than 155 days of the year

Insurance, insurance, insurance

We’ve all seen horror stories about things that can go wrong in a holiday rental. From wild, destructive parties to disappearing bathrobes, things never run quite as smoothly as you might hope. Holiday rental law requires you to take out insurance to prepare for the worst. Some forms of insurance are mandatory, like:

  • Holiday let building and contents cover: This will provide compensation if your property is destroyed or damaged due to fires, floods, break-ins and similar unpredictable events.
  • Public liability insurance for holiday lets: You will need to have this organised before you take your first booking. If someone injures themselves while they’re in your holiday home, public liability insurance offers you some protection.
  • Employers’ liability insurance: You won’t need this if you’re planning to do everything yourself. However, if you’re going to hire cleaners, gardeners or other staff, then this type of policy is mandatory. It will protect you if an employee has an accident at work.

Rental law for holiday apartments doesn’t require you to take out loss of earnings insurance, but it could still be a good idea. It goes hand in hand with the two types of coverage already mentioned. For example, if your holiday home is flooded and can’t be let out for months, a loss of earnings policy will keep you ticking over financially.

Safety first

You’re legally obliged to make sure that your holiday let meets certain safety standards. That includes carrying out a full fire safety assessment, ensuring the electrical wiring and gas is up to standard, and assessing risks.

Fire safety in a holiday home

As a holiday let owner, you’ll have to complete a fire risk assessment. Your property needs an evacuation plan that is clearly visible to guests; an even better idea is telling guests in person about the evacuation routes when they arrive. You should also provide fire-fighting equipment. In England and Wales, the government guidelines suggest keeping a fire extinguisher on each floor, easily accessible and close to the stairs. There should also be a fire blanket in the kitchen. Check this equipment on a regular basis to make sure it’s all in working order.

Furniture must also meet fire safety standards. If you’re using new furniture, that probably won’t be an issue. Vintage or antique pieces may need to be checked, though, particularly if they’re upholstered.

Finally, you’ll need to install smoke alarms throughout the property and a heat detector in the kitchen. The exact number of alarms you need will depend on the size of the home, but regardless of the number, you’ll have to test them regularly to ensure they’re working correctly.

Gas and electricity safety

In Scotland, holiday lets must keep a valid Electrical Safety Certificate. That’s not a legal requirement in England and Wales, but it’s probably still a good idea. To obtain a certificate, you’ll need to have a qualified electrician perform a complete safety check. If you buy any new electrical items, make sure they come from a reputable supplier, and ensure you keep everything in good working condition. You’ll also need to make sure that cables are fixed in place or tucked away so they don’t present tripping hazards.

No matter where you are in the UK, you’re legally obliged to have a valid Gas Safety Certificate. Make sure any gas appliances and fittings are well-maintained and safe. A registered Gas Safe engineer should come to your property every 12 months to carry out an inspection.

Risk assessments

As a holiday homeowner, you can’t get away with putting up a disclaimer sign like “Use at your own risk” – you could still be held liable if someone has an accident on your property. For that reason, it’s essential that you carry out a risk assessment, identifying potential hazards around the home.

As part of your risk assessment, you should be trying to minimise the likelihood of accidents. For example, you can make sure there are non-slip mats in the bath or shower and put stickers on windows so that guests can clearly see the glass. Ensure bannisters are sturdy, and watch out for anything that might create a tripping hazard.

You’ll have to do extra work if you’re marketing your property as being family-friendly. Make sure that upstairs windows are fixed in place so they can’t be opened fully; ensure that pools and hot tubs are fenced in; put baby-proof catches on kitchen cupboards; and install a safety net around the garden trampoline. If you don’t have experience with kids, it might be worth bringing in a professional – there are always little details that you could easily miss.

Advertising your holiday rental

Finally, make sure you don’t fall foul of false advertising laws. When you start to advertise your property, be honest. If you’re fudging the truth here and there, you might get bad reviews – or, even worse, customers demanding refunds.

Running a holiday rental can be a great way to enjoy a second income and an investment for the future. Just make sure you do it right, and you’ll be smiling!

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