Latest legislative updates

Kurt JansonKurt Janson, Director of the Tourism Alliance, gives a monthly update on the latest regulatory changes affecting the hospitality industry. 

Last updated 5th April 2017

Disclaimer:  Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in the Pink Book of Legislation, we regret that we cannot be responsible for any errors. This guide is not intended to be a definitive statement of the law in England. If you require precise or detailed information on the legislation mentioned in this guide, or on the legal implications for you in particular, you should consult a professional legal adviser.

At a glance:

A note on TV licences and self-catering properties

  • Kurt provides an overview of the 'hotel licence' and when it applies to self-catering units

The spring 2017 Budget: what you need to know

  • Business Rates, Making Tax Digital and rent-a-room relief changes have been announced by the Government.

Alcohol Registration

  • You are now obliged to ensure they have purchased alcohol for sale from a registered seller.


A note on TV licences and self-catering properties

All tourist accommodation – including self-catering properties – are usually eligible for the ‘Hotel and Mobile Units Television Licence’ (commonly known as a ‘hotel licence’).

This licence, which covers all types of accommodation from hotels through to self-catering units and tents, is needed because you are benefiting financially from providing copyright material to your guests.

The amount that you pay for a hotel licence is based on the number of rooms or units you have. The current rates are:

  • £145 for properties with up to 15 rooms that have televisions installed
  • £145, plus £145.50 for each additional five rooms (or part thereof) for properties with more than 15 rooms

However, the regulations covering TV licencing state that a hotel licence covers one or more units of guest accommodation ‘on the same site’ or ‘within the same premises’. While this is easily understandable when related to hotels, guesthouses and B&Bs, there are some grey areas in the interpretation of the regulations when it comes to self-catering properties or accommodation such as static caravans or yurts.

For example, if you own a number of different self-catering cottages in different locations, you will need a separate licence for each property as they are not ‘on the same site’. Units located on land with separate titles can also be deemed not to be ‘on the same site’ even if the land is contiguous. Similarly, land that is separated by a public thoroughfare such as a road or even a footpath can also be deemed to be not ‘on the same site’.

There is also some ambiguity regarding places being ‘within the same premises’ where different types of accommodation are available on the same piece of land. For example, if you have a B&B with four rooms and two yurts in the grounds, these could be deemed to be two separate operations and each operation would need its own licence.

A reasonable rule of thumb in this situation is that if you simply allocate a unit to a guest when they arrive, the more likely it is that the premises will be covered by a single hotel licence. However, if the accommodation types you provide are not interchangeable (i.e., the guest books a particular type), the more likely it is that you will need a separate licence for each one or each grouping of units.

It is always advisable to contact TV Licensing directly to check that you have the right licence for the specific circumstances of your business.

  • Note: Remember, depending on the circumstances, you may also need a PRS licence, PPL licence or a Filmbank licence (if you also provide DVDs for guest use). For more information on licensing, read the TV & Copyright licences section.

The spring 2017 Budget: what you need to know

While the last spring budget didn’t contain many big ticket issues, there were some announcements that could impact on accommodation businesses.

Business Rates

Among the most important of these related to Business Rates. If you are a business that has just come out of Small Business Rate Relief due to the latest revaluation, then the amount that you will pay will be capped at £600 during the first year.

Second, the Government has made available a £300m fund for councils to provide discretionary relief for businesses in their area that have been hardest-hit by the increases in business rates. However, it is unknown at this stage as to how the fund will be divided between councils or the basis by which councils will allocate the funding.

Most importantly, the Government has committed to a consultation on reforming the valuation process, which will help tourism businesses when the next revaluation occurs in 2022.

For more information, read the Business Rates page.

Maxing Tax Digital campaign

Another important announcement was that the Government has delayed the introduction of the Making Tax Digital initiative for another year (until 1 April 2019) for unincorporated businesses. This will give operators of micro-accommodation businesses longer to digitise their accounts online and provide quarterly reporting to HMRC. For more information on Making Tax Digital, read the Income tax, VAT and legal form of business page.

Rent-a-room relief

Finally, the Government announced a consultation that will be of interest to a number of operators. It is proposing to redesign the rent-a-room relief, to ensure it is better targeted to support longer-term lettings. At the moment, the scheme lets you earn up to £7,500 per year tax-free from letting out furnished accommodation in your home, and has been particularly beneficial to people operating AirBnB-type properties.

The Government has announced that the consultation will be aimed at realigning the relief more closely with its intended purpose of increasing the supply of affordable long-term lodgings.

The Alcohol Wholesaler Registration Scheme

In response to the growing problem of counterfeit alcohol, the Government has introduced the Alcohol Wholesaler Registration Scheme. This requires all wholesale sellers of alcohol to have registered with HMRC to obtain a Unique Reference Number (URN) as proof that they are legally able to sell alcohol to businesses.

As of 1 April 2017, it is now illegal for you to buy alcohol from a wholesaler who is not registered and able to provide you with their URN (which you will be able to check online). Buy your alcohol from an unregistered business, and you may be liable to a criminal or civil penalty and your alcohol may be seized.

You can check if your wholesaler is registered on the website

There is one important exemption to this scheme. Retailers who make occasional trade sales of alcohol are excluded, meaning that if you buy your alcohol from a supermarket or off -licence, then they will not be registered and you don’t have to check.