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New Airbnb rules will return housing units back to long-term rentals

Rental caps and a new licensing system are due to be announced next week.

shutterstock_1113488087 Shutterstock / Raquel Mathias Shutterstock / Raquel Mathias / Raquel Mathias

AIRBNB REGULATIONS WHICH could bring at least 1,000 homes back on the market are due to be published in the coming week. 

It is widely expected the Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy will follow the Toronto model of regulating short-term lets. 

He first told at the Fine Gael think-in earlier this month that proposed regulations will be very similar to ones introduced in Toronto.

In September, Toronto city introduced new laws which ensure a person can only rent their home as a short-term let if it is their principal residence, banning the renting of “secondary suites”. 

This means that people who own a second property (what some call an investment property) will not be able to rent it out. The maximum rental period is for a maximum of 180-days. 

The rules in Toronto also stipulate that short-term rental companies and home owners must obtain a licence and register with the city council. 

Any new licensing system would likely only impact properties in the capital at first, however Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said during the week the new regulations will involve “restricting the use of apartments and homes in rent pressure zones for short-term lettings like Airbnb”. 

He said it will still be possible for people to rent out a room in their own home on a short-term basis, “but you couldn’t be using an apartment or house that you own for long-term Airbnb… and those apartments should be released into the market for people to let them to people who live in Ireland rather than people who are visiting”. 

‘Can’t wait any longer’

Murphy said the government “cannot wait any longer” on regulations, with his own department pushing out the publication of the new rules a number of times in the last couple of weeks.

It is understood this is due to discussions firstly between both the housing and tourism department as to who should take the lead, and secondly over whether the new plans have to be approved by Cabinet. 

Setting out more detail this week, the minister said there will be a two-stage process whereby “in the near and immediate term” changes will be made that will have “a substantial outcome in terms of getting short-terms back into the long-term market, but then also moving to a point after that where we can have a proper understanding of what is happening in terms of licensing, regulation and everything else”.

I will give people notice when I make the announcement ahead of when the actual changes will come into law. I will do that next week so that people can have a little bit of time to get ready for the new arrangements. I agree that it is important that we move on this quickly.
Recognising that the introduction of such a regulatory regime will take time, I am also considering what other measures might, in the interim, support the recommendations and objectives set down in both the working group’s report and that of the joint Oireachtas committee.

Housing committee’s report 

A working group, set up by the department, was tasked with coming up with the best regulatory system for short-term lettings, however Murphy has been vocal about preferring the recommendations set down by the Joint Committee on Housing last year. 

It differs somewhat to the Toronto rules, setting out a two level regulatory regime be introduced via primary legislation in relation to short-term lets with a strict regime of regulations targeted at entire property, short-term commercial lettings at one level, and a less stringent second level focused at those that rent out their own primary residence for a period of 90 days or less per year.

It recommends that casual short-term lettings of up to 90 days in a given year should be exempt from planning permission. Any short-term letting in excess of 90 days should require change-of-use planning permission.

Like Toronto, it recommends a licencing system be introduced for short-term lets and short-term letting platforms, where homeowners would register with both the local authority and the Revenue Commissioners. 

Information evenings held at Airbnb 

It is understood that a lot of Airbnb proprietors are anxious about the new rules and the impact it will have on their incomes.

The company, which has lobbied the government almost 50 times on the new regulations, has been holding special information evenings for customers in recent weeks in order to keep people informed about what changes could be coming down the line.  

Speaking in the Dáil this week, Murphy said:

I am a fan of home sharing. It is a very interesting new development that we have in the shared economy. However, it cannot happen in an unfettered way. Certainly when we have a housing crisis it cannot happen in an unregulated way.

AirBnb revealed this summer that 640,000 guests used the service in Ireland over the summer. The company has previously said it welcomes talks on clear home-sharing rules for Irish hosts.

Earlier this summer and after almost two years of discussions, the company expressed concerns over the slow pace at which home-sharing rules in Ireland are being developed.

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