Home-sharing website Airbnb expressed surprise and serious concerns at the Government’s decision to set stronger controls on short-term lets, according to newly released private correspondence.
Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien announced plans during the summer to strengthen regulatory controls on the short-term letting of non-principal private residences in rent pressure zones amid concerns that short-term lets had reduced the availability of long-term rentals.
The aim of the measure was to encourage the release of more long-term accommodation in areas of the country experiencing severe accommodation shortages during the housing crisis.
Figures produced in the week in July when the Government measure was announced showed there were just 342 properties for rent in Dublin, according to rental website Daft.ie, while Airbnb had 376 “whole home” properties available for a month in the same area.
The announcement led a lobbyist for Airbnb, Derek Nolan, the former Labour TD for Galway West, to send off a strongly worded letter to the minister complaining about the lack of consultation with the company.
“I wish to express my surprise and serious concern that this announcement has come without consultation and despite the fact that we have requested meetings with you and your department to discuss new rules for short-term lettings, and how they can best be framed for all stakeholders, on several occasions,” Mr Nolan told the minister
Airbnb’s director of public policy for Ireland raised specific concerns about how the proposals would make it an offence for property owners and short-term lettings websites such as Airbnb to advertise rentals that do not have the required planning permission.
Mr Nolan described the company as a “pillar of the Irish tourism industry and a proud corporate citizen here”, employing more than 900 people in Ireland.
He told the minister the company fully supported the Government’s proposal to implement a single national register for short-term lettings in the tourism sector.
“It would be far more effective to follow through on this commitment, on the timeline originally suggested, rather than focusing on stopgap measures,” he said in the letter to Mr O’Brien that was released by his department under the Freedom of Information Act.
‘We understand that the principle of engagement is important to you and the Government. We would appreciate it if this principle applied to Airbnb’— Derek Nolan, Airbnb’s director of public policy for Ireland
Mr Nolan shared financial information, previously passed to the minister’s department, from economic research firm Oxford Economics that showed Airbnb guests spent about €774 million and directly supported more than 6,000 jobs across the country.
The letter shows the former politician was particularly aggrieved at the lack of consultation with the company before the Government announced the measures.
“We understand that the principle of engagement is important to you and the Government. We would appreciate it if this principle applied to Airbnb,” he said.
In December, the Government approved proposals that will require short-term letting in cities and towns in rent pressure zones to have special planning permission.
Under the plans, the State will be able to fine property owners and online platforms up to €5,000 if they breach new rules on short-term lettings.
Property owners offering accommodation for periods of up to and including 21 nights will need to be registered with Fáilte Ireland, the tourism agency.
Fáilte Ireland will be able to levy €300 fixed penalties notices on property owners who advertise their property without a valid registration number.