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Dublin City Council need to 'aggressively go after' properties breaching new short-term let laws

Sinn Féin’s Eoin Ó Broin says Minister Shane Ross does not hold responsibility for regulating Airbnb.

DUBLIN CITY COUNCIL needs to get “aggressive” in enforcing new short-term letting laws, Sinn Féin’s housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin has said.

He added that in order to set an example, the council should instigate court proceedings against some of the big market players in the short-term letting business that fail to comply with the new rules. 

The new regulations, introduced over a month ago, require hosts using Airbnb and other short-term letting sites to register their property with their local authority and apply for planning permission if they rent out a property for more than 90 days a year.

Local authorities have been tasked with enforcing the new rules, with non-compliance fines on hosts amounting to €5,000. 

Short-term lets of second properties are not permitted in rent pressure zones, such as Dublin’s city centre, though some exemptions may be granted. 

Property owners have been urged to apply to their local authorities for change-of-use planning permission or if they are seeking an exemption to the new rules. 

Planning permission applications

Ó Broin said that he is disappointed at the low level of change-of-use planning permission applications and exemptions being applied for to date. 

“The new rules have been in place for a month and the number of applications to Dublin City Council for exceptions or change of use planning applications is very, very slow. So in the first instance what Dublin city council need to do is, on a very aggressive basis, go after those properties that aren’t compliant. 

“You can go on Airbnb or a number of other platforms any day of the week and you can see the properties that have been advertised. Dublin City Council need to check have they applied for an exemption or planning permission, and if not, hit them with enforcement notices, give them 21 days to apply for the exemption or planning permission or to take them to court,” he said. 

He added:

I think if Dublin City Council took a number of high-profile enforcement actions against some of the big commercial operators I think that would send out a signal that the government means business on this. 

Dublin City Council has previously said it will need up to €750,000 to set up a dedicated team to enforce new short-term letting rules in the city – €350,000 more than originally thought. 

According to the latest figures from Inside Airbnb, there are 9,902 listings in Dublin and 4,315 of these were by hosts with multiple listings. 

The council, which is by far the largest in terms of short-lettings and so requires additional resources, has said it plans to set-up a dedicated task force with a number of additional staff members to enforce the new regulations over the coming months. 

Questions have been raised recently as to why the local authority was not adequately resourced prior to the new regulations coming into effect. 

‘Pass the buck’

Ó Broin has also accused Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy of trying to pass the buck on Airbnb regulations to his Cabinet colleague, Tourism Minister Shane Ross.  

A report published last week by the Department of Housing shows that officials recommended financial penalties for short-term letting platforms if they failed to abide by strict new rules.

The report from the department’s interdepartmental group tasked with reviewing the sector said authorities should have strong step-in powers with online platforms such as Airbnb. 

Compliance by the online platforms should be “gained through clear financial penalties, reputational risk of non-compliance and sanction and other sanctions such as the revocation of licences”.

However, Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy previously told an Oireachtas committee that regulating platforms such as Airbnb is ultimately a matter for Tourism Minister Shane Ross and his department.

Sinn Féin’s housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin has sided with the Independent Alliance minister, stating that regulating the platforms to ensure compliance is a matter for Murphy.

“I think strong enforcement action from Dublin City Council is now what is required but it would make Dublin City Council’s job so much easier if the estate agents and letting platforms had that obligation, because then you would have a dual approach. I think Eoghan Murphy is going to have to revisit this issue,” he added. 

Ó Broin said the minister’s claim that responsibility lies with Ross is not correct.

“That’s simply not the case, this is planning enforcement, and what we proposed is that a platform, such as Airbnb, would be in breach of planning if it advertised non-compliant properties.

“The sensible way to do that is through the local authorities – that would put it in Eoghan Murphy’s department. Clearly he didn’t want to do it and is clearly trying to pass the blame on to Shane Ross,” he said.

He added that it is “disappointing” the government did not adopt the department’s own internal working group report which recommended that there should also be a legal obligation on the platforms and estate agents not to advertise non-compliant properties, stating that in doing so, platforms should face fines. 

He added that his criticisms do not mean the regulations introduced last month are useless, but added that “Dublin City Council needs to take strong enforcement action against those in breach of the law”.

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