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Dublin: 15 °C Tuesday 21 May, 2019
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Council needs €750,000 for new short-term letting rules - €350k over initial estimate

New legislation is set to come into effect on 1 June.

Image: Shutterstock/Angie Yeoh

IT’S ANTICIPATED THAT Dublin City Council 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. 

From 1 June, regulations will kick in to tackle potentially illegal short-term lets in areas of high housing demand, like Dublin, and local authorities have said they will need to be sufficiently resourced.

Green Party councillor Patrick Costello has said, however, that Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy has yet “to provide real details” of the new regulations. 

“The councils will no doubt bear the weight of implementation and enforcement so it’s imperative the department consult with us,” says Costello, who argues that a lack of details is unfair for those using short-term letting platforms, too. “As much as the council, they need clarity and certainty”. 

Last November, Dublin councillors were told that an estimated €400,000 would be required in order to establish a team to enforce these new rules. 

The Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, meanwhile, has said that it will provide additional resources to local authorities, though so far it’s understood that Dublin City Council has been given no additional resources.

And there are concerns that, even when these rules come in, they will not be effective in returning lettings to the long-term rental market. 

‘Logistically very difficult’ 

According to the latest figures from Inside Airbnb, there are 9,530 listings in Dublin and 4,152 of these were by hosts with multiple listings. 

In areas of high demand, there have been concerns for some time that professional landlords are withdrawing houses and apartments that would normally be rented on a long-term basis and are instead renting them out as short-term lets, reducing the availability of long-term rental accommodation.

Under new rules proposed by Murphy, it’s anticipated that home sharing on platforms like Airbnb will only be allowed where it is a person’s primary residence. Homeowners who currently let a second property on a short-term basis will have to apply for ‘change of use’ planning permission. 

The new regulations will also require people renting out their homes to register with their local authority.

An annual cap of 90 days will apply to renting out a home and homeowners can only rent out their homes to visitors for 14 days or less at a time. 

AirBnB. Map showing Airbnb listings in Dublin Source: InsideAirbnb.com

But with the cost for Dublin City Council now anticipated to be approximately €750,000, local representatives have queried a lack of resources and some remain unconvinced the new rules will work at all. 

Workers Party councillor Eilís Ryan has said that the rules will be “incredibly hard to regulate” even if the council is resourced sufficiently.  Once it “gets down to the nitty gritty of trying to prove how many nights people have let bedrooms out for”.

“We don’t have a enough resources to regulate illegal dumping,” says Ryan. “Why should public money be used to regulate a private industry?”

With in excess of 5,000 separate properties listed on short-term platforms like AirBnB in 2017, tackling potentially illegal short-term lettings in the city is likely to be “resource intensive”, council management said back in November.

“The enforcement of short-term lettings is logistically very difficult with problems establishing ownership, gaining access to apartments and houses and most importantly a requirement to prove illegal occupation,” the council has said. 

‘Bear the weight’

On several occasions from September last year, Airbnb representatives met with TDs, councillors and several ministers to discuss the proposed short-term letting regulations. 

Laying out its business case to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in late August, Airbnb wrote – in documents released to TheJournal.ie under Freedom of Information – that the company “are in full agreement with the government that there needs to be rules put in place”. However, community support head Aisling Hassell added that these rules “need to be balanced and targeted at only those who are acting ‘commercially’ and not damage the lives of those who are benefiting from the abovementioned extra income”.

Sinn Féin housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin has argued that the rules should force platforms like Airbnb to inform the local authorities and the department which properties are let out and for how many nights these are let out. 

Who knows how many nights a property has been let out?” asks Ó Broin. “AirBnB do.

Such a system, Ó Broin has said, could ease the burden on local authorities and prevent a Barcelona-style system whereby inspectors go from dwelling-to-dwelling to determine if rules are being broken or not, which in turn puts pressure on resources. 

A spokesperson for Airbnb told TheJournal.ie, however, that “imposing an obligation on platforms to monitor what their users do across not just their own platform, but all platforms, is inappropriate and could be in contravention of EU laws”. 

“It is also not clear how the Irish government could effectively enforce this obligation on large booking platforms that are headquartered in other countries (for example, Booking.com, Expedia, and Trip Advisor), and for rules to be effective they need to be applied equally by all platforms and providers”. 

“We want to be good partners to authorities and work together to help people share their homes and follow the rules, but local authorities are best placed to lead enforcement efforts,” the spokesperson said. 

‘Lead-in time’

According to a housing department spokesperson the new regulations are “to allow property owners sufficient lead-in time to prepare for and adapt to the proposed new laws”.

“The issue of additional resources is an important factor in underpinning the proposed new arrangements and one which the department will be engaging with local authorities on,” the spokesperson said.

The Minister has already indicated, additional resources will be provided to Dublin City Council to assist in this regard.”

The department, “in recognising the acute pressure on rents particularly in the Dublin area” has said that “additional resources will be provided to assist in proactive monitoring and enforcement of these amended regulations”.

Asked had the department allocated additional resources yet, a council spokesperson said that it is a matter for the department to decide upon. 

The Green Party’s Costello has said that “the so-called sharing economy needs to do some sharing of its own” when it comes to enforcement of new regulations. 

“There must be a requirement on Airbnb and similar platforms to share information when clients breach regulations. That needs to be part of any regulations. This will also help keep the costs down for Dublin City Council”. 

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