Airbnb says it wants to be regulated in Ireland

Short-let firm says new rules needed to deal with impact of technology on the market

Airbnb visitors to Temple Bar, Dublin. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Airbnb visitors to Temple Bar, Dublin. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

Airbnb has called on the Government to introduce regulations for the short-term letting market to help deal with the rental crisis in Dublin.

“We want to be regulated,” Airbnb’s head of policy Chris Lehane told The Irish Times, adding that there was a need for new regulations to deal with the impact of the new technology on the market. “We are hopeful and optimistic Government will want to do something that works.”

The company has been blamed in part for exacerbating the rental crisis in Ireland, particularly in major cities, with some landlords preferring to rent their properties on a short-term basis through Airbnb rather than deal with long-term tenants.

However, Mr Lehane said many of the Irish properties on Airbnb – 70 per cent – would never be available for long-term rental.

Mr Lehane joined the company almost three years ago. “Over those three years we’ve now put in place more than 500 regulatory-type arrangements around the world,” he said. “Some are tax partnerships, some are data sharing, some are full-on regulatory frameworks. What has evolved over the years is a growing recognition, particularly by governments who want to deal with the issue, that you need new laws for a new thing.”

In 2017 Amsterdam put a 60-day limit on property rentals in the city, meaning hosts could not rent their properties for longer than that in one calendar year. The limit is set to fall to 30 days in 2019.

In New York, the company has implemented a “one host, one property” approach in a bid to appease regulators. New South Wales in Australia is the latest to introduce limits, with properties in Sydney subject to a 180-day limit per year.

Two types of activity

“What has happened globally is that there is a recognition that there are two different types of activities that take place on Airbnb. One is people who use homes that would otherwise not be available for long-term rental,” he said.

“The second category is one that has always existed – vacation rentals, commercial. Looking at the market here in Dublin, you would make more on short-term rentals if you were doing 180 days or more of rentals versus a long-term rental.

“In Dublin, it seems to make a lot of sense that if you’re trying to make sure you’re attempting to optimise for long-term housing to be available on the market, you come up with some type of number around 180 days that would distinguish between the types of activity.

He said any changes to regulations should be applied to everyone, to make it a level playing field.

“I think we’ve demonstrated we have the ability to put a structure in place and help governments be able to enforce it,” he said.

Airbnb was established in 2008 and operates in 191 countries. It set up in Ireland five years ago and employs about 500 people in Dublin. The business is now valued at more than $30 billion (€24.4 billion).