Q: I know that the restrictions on household gatherings have changed from a maximum of 6 people from 2 different households, with children under 12 exempt. Households are no longer to permitted to meet with other households in private homes. How does this affect me as a accommodation provider?
A: Self-catering holiday accommodation is within the definition of a private dwelling for the purpose of these regulations and from 25 September all types of self-catering accommodation may only be used by a single household (or recognised extended household). The one household per house rule applies to all properties regardless of size and location. The one household rule per self-catering premises is now a legal requirement and every individual must follow the rules.
Q: I run a hotel, guest house, boarding house/bed and breakfast. What does the new regulations mean for me i.e. can two unrelated people (eg travelling workmen) share a twin room?
A: Hotels, guest houses, boarding houses and bed and breakfasts are excluded from the definition of private dwellings, and may continue to accommodate groups of up to six from no more than two households. There should be no sharing of rooms between members of different households, and there must be provision for physical distancing with separate households within a group, as well as between groups. This also applies in byunk houses and other forms of hotel accommodation. There should be no unregulated mixing between households, and any shared space (for example a kitchen/lounge that might previously have operated on a shared basis).
Q: Why is there a single household limit in self-catering premises, but not in hotels and hostels?
The restrictions on household gatherings are in place to prevent transmission of the virus. We know that there is a high risk of transmission in unregulated indoor environments, including between family and friends.
Self-catering premises are legally classed as private dwellings. They present the same level of potential risk as private dwellings. Whilst there may be protocols for cleaning, for example on changeover day, these are essentially self-contained unregulated spaces for the period of occupation, with no ongoing supervision of the guests, to ensure that mitigations such as physical distancing are observed.
Hotels/hostels and B&Bs are not classed as private dwellings. They are regulated premises, where the risk may be managed, through strict regulations, for example face coverings, physical distancing between groups and households, track and trace. These premises have staff who are charged with ensuring that these regulations are adhered to, by both staff and guests, and are liable if this is not the case.
This same level of oversight is neither practical or appropriate in self-catering premises, which effectively become someone’s home for the period of their stay. To reduce the risk of transmission no mixing between households may occur, in any private dwelling, including self-contained self-catering holiday accommodation (other than where an extended household is in place).
Q: I have self-catering forward bookings, for two households to stay together in my property, what should I do?
A: It is the responsibility of individuals in the first instance to ensure they are following the rules so those who have made the booking should be in touch to discuss alternatives. If not you should review your bookings and where necessary make contact to discuss alternatives. This may mean a cancellation but may also mean retaining the booking, so only a single household comes, in order to comply with the new rules. You should proactively check forward bookings to avoid difficult situations on arrival if no action has been taken, as it will not be possible to accommodate groups of more than one household (or one extended household). As a business you should ensure your booking system is arranged so that it does not accept bookings that exceed these numbers. A simple step is to ensure staff who are taking calls for bookings are asking the right questions, including – is everyone from not more than 1 household? Businesses should not accept bookings from groups that are clearly exceeding the limit.
Q: Due to the fact that only one household can come my clients now wish to cancel their booking. What should I do?
A: We continue to expect the industry to abide by the standards of good practice we have seen so far through the pandemic, and follow the CMA guidance with regard to refunds, cancellations, and rescheduling. In line with CMA guidance, a full refund should be offered to customers who booked holiday homes but could not stay in them due to lockdown restrictions. The Scottish Government recognises the difficult position that many holiday companies will find themselves in at present. The regulation of consumer protection is the responsibility of the UK Government at Westminster. The Competition and Markets Authority have issued guidance to businesses and consumers about refunds.
Q: My booking is from visitors from England/elsewhere, where the rules are different? Which rules should they abide by?
A: All families, taking a self-catering holiday in Scotland, whatever their place of origin would have to abide by the one household per house rule.
Q: What if people travelling from Scotland are going to stay in self-catering accommodation in England?
A: Scottish people going to holiday in England, would fall under English regulations, and this is the case for other UK nations and overseas, however where these rules are different from Scotland consideration, people are urged to think hard about the public health implications, and if travelling outside the UK, the potential quarantine implications.
Q: Can two families stay in adjacent self catering properties?
A: Yes, two families could stay in two adjacent self-catering cottages as these are two houses.
Q: If I am a self-catering operator and offer to give breakfast, could I then have two households?
A: No, not if this is in one house. It should be one household. This would clearly be a contrivance to circumvent the rules. It is a legal requirement to follow the rules. We expect this to happen and people to be sensible.
Q. Can people still go on planned domestic holidays?
A. Yes, we are not imposing mandatory travel restrictions at this stage, and we are not insisting that people cancel any half term breaks they have planned. Where there are no planned holidays, we do ask those in the central belt not to travel out-with their area unless it is essential.
Q. Can people go on day trips during the autumn break?
A. Yes, but people in the central belt should aim to only do so within their own health board area and keep to the rules on household mixing, physical distancing, and hygiene at all times.
Q: Can I take new accommodation bookings during the tighter lockdown period from 10th to 25th October. I am in an area that is outside the areas where there are enhanced measures. Can I take visitors from these areas?.
A. The FM has been clear that those who have already planned breaks during the period of enhanced measures, which coincides with the school holidays in most areas, are still able to take them.
Given the advice to only undertake pre planned trips and to consider whether a journey is necessary, we would not expect people to be planning new or additional trips during this period, as this would be contrary to that general advice, however the regulations do not preclude accommodation providers from taking further bookings, either in advance or as walk ins.
Accommodation providers will want to consider the advice for themselves, and the potential risks. We expect operators to be sensible here, particularly with regard to ‘walk ins’, and would not expect that someone, who may have already travelled, perhaps as they were unaware of the advice, to be left without a place to stay.