It will be an offence for property owners and short-term lettings websites such as Airbnb to advertise rentals that do not have the required planning permission under proposals agreed by the Government.
Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien said the Cabinet had approved stronger regulatory controls on the short-term letting of non-principal private residences in rent pressure zones (RPZs).
He said the proposed new controls would result in more homes returning to the long-term rental market in RPZs, where rents are highest and where households have the greatest difficulty finding affordable accommodation.
If enacted, the changes to the law will mean that from September 1st, online platforms will not be able to advertise properties in RPZs that do not have the proper planning permission.
Non-compliance with these provisions will be an offence for both the individual property owners concerned and the online platforms. It is understood the penalty for non-compliance will be a fine of €5,000 or six months in prison, or both. Fines of €1,500 per day would also apply if a property continues to be advertised after the initial conviction.
The proposed amendment is to the Planning and Development (Amendment) (No 2) Bill progressing through the Oireachtas, which is expected to be enacted before the summer recess.
The Government has been under pressure to bring in regulation in the area.
In May, Sinn Féin proposed legislation that would see spot fines for estate agents or online platforms that profit from properties that don’t have planning permission.
The Government said at the time it would not oppose the Bill but that it was not the “most appropriate mechanism” to achieve its objectives and signalling that more substantial penalties were needed.
Announcing his plans, Mr O’Brien said the move would ease pressure on the rental market. “We know that significant numbers of properties have been withdrawn from the long-term rental market in recent years and diverted for use as short-term lettings, negatively impacting on the supply and availability of private residential rental accommodation with associated knock-on implications for rental prices,” he said. “This trend has been made easier through the use of online platforms and has been particularly acute in urban areas of high housing demand.”
He said the new controls are to be in place for six months initially while the Department of Tourism alongside Fáilte Ireland establish a new registration system for short-term lettings.
Meanwhile, a new report has found there has been a “stark decline” in the availability of affordable properties to rent by people reliant on the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) over the past year.
The payment, a form of social housing support, is available to tenants seeking to rent accommodation, the cost of which falls under “rent limits” outlined in statutory regulations. The limit varies depending on location and household type, though flexibility of up to 20 per cent may be provided, on a case-by-case basis, where a household cannot find suitable accommodation within these limits. A 50 per cent discretionary limit is available in Dublin.
However, the Simon Communities of Ireland’s latest quarterly Locked Out of the Market report found there were 37 properties available under a standard or discretionary limit across 16 areas in three days in June. This represented a decrease of 43 per cent on the 80 properties available within at least one HAP category in March, and 95 per cent less than the 906 available in June 2021.
Only two of the available properties were affordable under a standard HAP limit, with the remaining 35 falling under discretionary rates.