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Council investigated 400 short-term lets but won't be tracking rental ads during Covid-19

There has been speculation surrounding the number of rental properties in Dublin being advertised in recent weeks.

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OVER 400 NEW investigations into short-term property lets have been initiated by Dublin City Council since December, latest figures show, amid speculation that property owners are leaving the short-term rental market in favour of long-term tenancies during Covid-19. 

The Council has initiated a further 414 investigations in Dublin since December after legislation was enacted last July to tackle potentially illegal short-term lets in areas of high housing demand.

In recent weeks, there has been commentary surrounding the number of rental properties in Dublin being advertised on Daft.ie. 
Daft.ie said there has been a 75% increase in the number of homes to rent in Dublin in the past 12 months. 

The so-called surge in rental properties available has eased from 170 additional properties in the week just after schools were closed to fewer than 20 additional rental properties in Central Dublin two weeks ago, the property website said. 

Last week, Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy said the Covid-19 crisis has highlighted the number of short-term lets in Dublin which are now available to homeless services and the HSE. 

The Minister said it has become “abundantly clear” the amount of short-term lets available and that the Government needed to further regulate the market. 

‘Letting Platforms’

Green Party Councillor Michael Pidgeon said the short-term letting regulations and the onus of Local Authorities to enforce them was done “arseways”.

“Local authorities are doing their best, but the national short-term let regulations are arseways,” he said.

“Instead of regulating the letting platforms, like Airbnb or Booking.com, they’ve shifted the onus onto local authorities to investigate individual cases. Dublin City Council has had some success in doing so, but it’s an unnecessary uphill struggle in practice.

“Letting platforms should simply have to report who is renting through their platforms, while individual hosts should have to register nationally,” said Pidgeon.

“The worry is that once the pandemic restrictions are lifted, we’ll go back to business as usual – where tourism takes priority over housing.”

The Council, however, told TheJournal.ie that tracking letting advertisements on property websites which may return to short-term letting platforms later this year is “of very little relevance” to its investigation process. 

“Advertisements are not considered a planning breach of the short-term letting regulations regardless of whether or not any such advertisement relates to unauthorised use,” a Council spokesperson said. “Therefore our section does not record, for statistical purposes, data pertaining to advertisements.”

‘Identifiable Properties’

Recent data does not support speculation that a surge in rentals was caused by a large number of units previously only available on short-term letting websites such Airbnb re-entering the residential market.

As first reported by the Sunday Business Post, a 15-month analysis by estate agent Hooke & MacDonald – of apartment listings only – showed that although there has been an increase in long-term apartments to let, the jump in numbers has been “very minor and immaterial”.

Ken McDonald, managing director of Hooke & MacDonald said the figures show there has been a consistency in supply, with figures only slightly fluctuating on a monthly basis over that period. 

Dublin City Council, meanwhile, said that 20 change-of-use applications to short-term lets have been received since regulations were enacted. Just one of these was approved after being overturned by An Bord Pleanála. 

Of the 590 investigations initiated since July, 21 Enforcement Notices have been issued in respect of these cases and one prosecution has been initiated.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, Sinn Féin’s Housing Spokesperson Eoin O’Broin said he welcomes the increase in investigations by Dublin City Council. 

“It is very welcome that we’ve had a significant increase in the number of investigations and warning letters…I’d hope that increases,” he said, adding that Dublin City Council should move towards legal proceedings to set an example for short-term letting platforms. 

“Until somebody is brought to court and loses…an awful lot of commercial, short-term lettings landlords are going to take a ‘wait and see’ attitude,” he said. 

A spokesperson for the Council said that inspections under the short-term letting regulations have currently ceased due to Covid-19. 

“It has been observed some properties have advertised for long-term lettings since the outbreak,” they said.

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“However, we are unable to establish if the alleged short-term use has actually ceased or if the owner’s intentions to use a property for long-term use is a result of the current status of the rental market or actions taken by our section. 

“Investigations, including inspections of identifiable properties, will resume when the current restrictions have been lifted,” they said. 

Sinn Féin’s O’Broin said it is “very disappointing” that the Council is not tracking properties through online advertisements. Advertisements, he said, are or should be relevant to the planning process. 

“But it also confirms that until such time as advertising a short-term let that isn’t planning compliant is deemed a breach [of regulations] there’s no compulsion on the Local Authority,” he said. 

“It further shows the needs to regulate the platforms themselves.”

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