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Explainer: What will the new Airbnb laws mean for homeowners and landlords?

The much-anticipated regulations will come into force in June 2019 in areas with high housing demand.

Germany, Berlin: A suitcase lies on the bed of an Airbnb rental apartment
Germany, Berlin: A suitcase lies on the bed of an Airbnb rental apartment
Image: Jens Kalaene via PA Images

MINISTER FOR HOUSING Eoghan Murphy this morning confirmed that under new laws home sharing on platforms such as Airbnb will only be allowed where it is a person’s primary residence. 

Homesharing is where a person rents out a part or all of their home for a period of time, usually to tourists who are visiting the country. It can often help homeowners meet their day-to-day bill or pay for their holidays, for example. 

However, as home sharing has become more popular as a form of tourism letting, it has resulted in some professional landlords withdrawing houses and apartments that would normally be rented on a long-term basis to instead rent them out as short-term lets, the Department of Housing has said. 

And as Ireland is currently in the midst of a deepening housing and homeless crisis, the Department has announced plans to implement new short-term let regulations, to help bring properties back onto the market. 

The new short-term let regulations, kicking in on 1 June 2019, will operate on a ‘one host, one home’ model in areas of the country where there is deemed to be a high housing demand. 

So, in short, what will these regulations entail?

Basically, homeowners who currently let a second property on a short-term basis will no longer be allowed to do so. 

In addition, an annual cap of 90 days will apply for the renting out of a home and homeowners can only rent out their homes for 14 days or less at a time.

Short-term letting will be defined as “the use of a bedroom or bedrooms in a home as paid overnight guest accommodation for a continuous period of up to two weeks”. 

Where a home or apartment is a person’s principal private residence, they will be permitted to rent out a room, or rooms, within their home for short-term letting without restriction (eg. B&B-type use).

However, they will only be allowed to sub-let their entire house without planning permission on the short-term market for an altogether period of 90 days or less annually.

Will people need to register their homes if they want to let rooms? 

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

If someone owns an apartment that they bought as an investment and want to rent it out on Airbnb for specific periods of time, they will now need to seek a special planning permission for this type of use as it is not their principal private residence.

The Department said that in areas of high housing demand (such as Dublin or Cork) it is unlikely that permission would be granted.  

Where a house or apartment results in a material change of use, such as the example above, and the owners have not been granted an exemption, this may result in a prosecution for unauthorised development.

How will these regulations be monitored?

According to the Department of Housing, additional resources will be provided within Dublin City Council’s planning section to oversee the registrations and to monitor enforcement. 

People found not to be in compliance with these changes will risk criminal conviction under the forthcoming legislation. 

shutterstock_1031361616 Source: Shutterstock/AngieYeoh

Case studies 

With the above information in mind, the Department of Housing has this morning published a number of scenarios homeowners and landlords may find themselves in when it comes to wanting to let rooms. 

Here are a few examples: 

Mary lives in the two-bedroom house in Cork that she owns near the sea. She wants to let a room occasionally on Airbnb, especially during the summer months. Can she?

Yes, she can let out her room year round, or the entire house for up to 90 days. She has to register with the council for her proposed short-term letting, as well and indicating which days (up to a total of 90) she intends to let out the whole house. 

Breda and Martin own an apartment in Temple Bar that they bought as an investment. They used to rent it out to long-term tenants but now prefer to let it through short-term letting sites. They find they are occupied for 40 weekends a year and are nearly always full in the summer. Can they continue the short-term let?

No. Under these new legislative proposals they would need to seek a specific planning permission for this type of use as it is not their principal private residence.  As Dublin is in a high demand area, it is unlikely that permission would be granted but this would be a matter for Dublin City Council.  

Mike and John own a four-bedroom house which is their principal private residence (PPR). They let one of the rooms to a long-term tenant and the other room they keep on short-term letting websites. They find they have it rented for about 120 days a year. Can they continue?

Yes. If the house is their PPR, they can rent out the rooms on short-term let all year long, using the existing B&B exemptions.  They need to register this with the council.

Bigcompany Ltd owns six apartments in a block in Dublin and operates a business renting them out on short-term letting websites for most of the year.  Can they?

No, unless they have a specific planning permission that permits short-term letting. Under the proposed legislative changes, they would need a specific planning permission for this type of use, as Dublin is in a high demand area, it is unlikely that permission would be granted but this would be a matter for Dublin City Council.  

Friendly Corporate Let Ltd owns a block of apartments which they provide as landing spots to employees of companies in Ireland coming from abroad. How will they be affected?

If the length of stay of each letting exceeds two weeks, then under the new regulations, it would not constitute short-term letting and would be viewed as normal residential use. However, if they operate short-term letting for any individual letting (ie. for periods of less than two weeks at a time), then planning permission will be required for a change of use, unless the permission associated with the property already permits such uses.

Have similar laws been implemented around the world? 

Yes. 

Amsterdam back in December 2016 signed an accord it hailed as “unique in Europe” with Airbnb banning rentals beyond 60 days a year.

Berlin, which has seen real estate prices soar in recent years, had months earlier passed one of the continent’s strictest regimes to hobble further Airbnb expansion entailing the rental of a maximum one room in one’s dwelling with €100,000 as a deterrent.

Even so, since May, that has been relaxed to allow renting out one’s entire private apartment.

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.

Vancouver, which introduced similar rules, said since the regulations kicked in the number of listings on Airbnb fell from 6,600 in April to 3,742. 

So, what happens now? 

As noted above, the new regulations will kick in on 1 June 2019.

However, in order to bring in the changes, amendments to primary planning legislation will now be required.

Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy said exempted development planning regulations have already been drafted, and amendments to primary legislation currently being drafted will “underpin and strengthen the new proposals”.

With a new licensing system for short-term letting hosts and commercial platforms taking some time to develop and come into force, the new rules will only kick in next summer. 

With reporting by Christina Finn and AFP. 

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