Airbnb ban for Dublin apartment upheld by board

An Bord Pleanála backs planning decision on property in Temple Bar’s Crown Alley

 An Bord Pleanála has upheld a ruling prohibiting the use of a Dublin city apartment as an Airbnb letting without planning permission. File photograph: John MacDougall/AFP/Getty Images

An Bord Pleanála has upheld a ruling prohibiting the use of a Dublin city apartment as an Airbnb letting without planning permission. File photograph: John MacDougall/AFP/Getty Images

 

A ruling prohibiting the use of a Dublin city apartment as an Airbnb letting without planning permission could have implications for the company’s business in Ireland.

An Bord Pleanála has upheld a planning decision that the two-bed property in Temple Bar’s Crown Alley had undergone a material change of use due to its Airbnb activity and was thus not exempt from planning regulations.

The Temple Bar Residents (TBR) group initially took the case against the apartment to Dublin City Council in April when it discovered the property listed for sale at a price of €425,000, which TBR maintains is above the local average for similar properties of about €275,000.

It said this was a reflection of the apartment’s revenue stream.

The council’s initial decision in favour of TBR was subsequently appealed to An Bord Pleanála by the apartment’s owner in July.

While the board’s decision does not have automatic widespread applicability, it is likely to precipitate copycat actions relating to other homes used for short-term holiday lettings.

The decision was taken by An Bord Pleanála as a Section Five referral under the Planning and Development Act.

It found the “change of use to the apartment for short-term holiday lettings . . . raises planning considerations that are materially different . . . to the permitted use as a residential apartment”.

In particular, it highlighted “the frequency of coming and going” by renters and servicing staff; associated concerns for neighbours regarding security and disturbance; and the “fully commercial nature” of the activity.

Earnings

An earlier sales brochure for the apartment said it was rented out on Airbnb with a 90 per cent occupancy rate and made €79,000 in rental earnings last year.

The board had to consider two elements in this case: whether the property constituted a development and, if so, were there any circumstances under which it could be considered exempt from planning. It found it was not exempt.

Focus will now switch to the ruling’s implications.

A source familiar with planning issues said: “What is likely to happen now is that, imagine you are a neighbour [of a similar holiday letting] tired of people having parties next door and you thought there was nothing you could do about it. Now you can make a complaint [testing the regulations].”

Property owners on the receiving end of such a decision could either apply for the appropriate planning permission, cease letting or carry on and face potential enforcement action taken by local authorities.

Crucially, the ruling does not stipulate that Airbnb lettings require planning permission, but it does open the door for case-specific challenges.

Wednesday’s outcome being described by the TBR as “a major shot across the bows of Airbnb”.

TBR chair Frank McDonald, the former environment editor of The Irish Times, said the case was motivated by concerns regarding how such use of properties was “making life hell” for residents and the impact of short-term lettings on the broader property shortages in Dublin.

“It’s high time the Minister for Housing and Planning Simon Coveney wakes up to the scale of this problem and introduces regulations to minimise the impact on the housing stock,” he said.

Berlin clampdown

An Bord Pleanála’s decision follows a recent clampdown on commercial lettings operations through Airbnb’s website in Berlin.

A law was introduced in the German capital forbidding the commercial, short-term letting of apartments to tourists without a city permit, following concerns over spiking rents and a growing housing shortage.