Owners of rural Airbnb properties could get exemption from planning permission requirement

Easing of planned crackdown on short-term lets in areas with less than 5,000 people under consideration by Government

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Owners of rural Airbnb properties could be exempt from having to apply for special planning permission if they are located in places where the population is less than 5,000, under proposals being considered by the Government.

The Department of Housing is developing planning guidelines as part of a bid to strengthen the regulations for short-term lets.

The hope is to return thousands of properties for use as long-term homes to help ease the current housing crisis.

The Coalition plans to set up a new short-term tourist letting register aimed at helping to monitor the sector. It is hoped the register will make it easier to find property owners that do not have the correct planning permission.


Rural TDs and Senators have raised concern that the crackdown could impact on tourism in rural and coastal areas where holiday homes are often advertised on Airbnb and other online platforms including Expedia and Booking.com.

The European Commission has also raised concern at the Government’s plans and have extended a “standstill period” until December as it considers the proposed legislation.

It has deemed the proposals to be overly restrictive.

One issue highlighted by the Commission is that the law “would not be geographically limited to densely populated areas where short-term rentals are more likely to have a significant inflationary effect on the price of long-term renting”.

Short-term lets are supposed to have special planning permission in Rent Pressure Zones which are in place in cities and towns - but also some rural areas.

The Irish Times understands that the Government is considering proposals to exempt short-term let property owners from the planning permission requirement in communities with a population of less than 5,000 people.

Rural short-term let owners would still have to sign up to the new register.

A source stressed that planning guidelines is “certainly not finalised” in terms of exactly how they will work and there is to be engagement with stakeholders and the Oireachtas Tourism Committee.

However, the 5,000 population threshold is under consideration as part of the goal of bringing more homes back into use “where they are needed” while protecting tourism “in more rural areas where the constraint wouldn’t be as acute.”

Earlier this week a Department of Housing statement said “updated planning guidelines on short-term letting, which are aimed at providing clarity on the planning permission and exemption requirements for properties operating in this area in both rent pressure zones and areas outside rent pressure zones are currently being prepared by this Department to supplement the Registration of Short-Term Tourist Letting Bill.”

It added: “The guidelines will provide sufficient protection for tourism in rural areas while ensuring there are homes returned to long-term rental in areas of high demand where they are most needed.”

It said that the European Commission’s extension of the standstill period to December 22nd “provides an opportunity to further engage with stakeholders and the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Tourism in relation to the further development of the planning guidelines and striking the right balance between the provision of long-term private rental accommodation in Rent Pressure Zones, while also minimising the impact of the proposed measure on short-term tourism accommodation in rural areas”.

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times