New guidelines are being drawn up in an attempt to regulate short term leasing of homes across the State on websites such as Airbnb.
An Oireachtas Housing Committee meeting heard on Wednesday that the Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government is in ongoing discussions with the owners of Airbnb on putting together such protocols for landlords advertising on the lettings website.
Their plan is to draw up a new “memorandum of understanding” to facilitate home sharing on the website while preventing unwelcome and unauthorised rentals being advertised on the Airbnb website.
Earnán O’Cleirigh from the Department of Housing told the committee the rental sector recognised the potential issue of significant numbers of properties being withdrawn from the long-term rental market particularly in Dublin for use of short term tourist related accommodation and the negative impact this would have for the rental sector.
“Airbnb are the most well known and fastest growing operator but there are others operating similar business models. In the discussions with the department, Airbnb expressed its concern at the potential loss of supply to the rental sector and have shown willingness to work with the department to develop a collaborative plan,” said Mr O’Cleirigh.
“Discussions in this context are ongoing and if successful are intended to form the basis for putting similar arrangements in place with other online platforms. The department’s joint commitment with Airbnb is to co-develop protocols and processes to facilitate home sharing while preventing unwelcome and unauthorised rentals being advertised on the Airbnb platform.
“However, any memorandum, which may be agreed, will be in addition to requirements under the planning code. This will not remove the obligation to obtain planning permission as required nor will it prohibit the reliance on an existing planning exemption,” he added.
Currently, property owners require planning permission if they want to make substantial changes to the use of a building, such as opening a bed and breakfast with more than four guestrooms, which will have an impact on neighbours or the local community.
However, Mr O’Cleirigh also noted that the department were “concerned” about the growing availability and use of short-term letting platforms and the potential commercial opportunities they provide may encourage landlords who normally provide residential accommodation to tenants to seek higher returns by ceasing residential letting and moving to short-term lettings to tourist and business customers.
“It may also encourage new investors to purchase residential units on the market for short-term lettings as an investment option and thus reducing the number of residential units” for housing.
The committee was told Dublin City Council figures show there are 6,729 listings on Airbnb for the capital, with 5,377 of these within the city council area.
Fingal County Council recently started enforcement action against the owner of a property in Malahide, Dublin, following complaints the house was being used exclusively for short-term lettings on Airbnb.
The case is one of three live cases before the local authority at the moment and the property owner involved is known to own several other properties. Residents of the Warren Manor estate complained the house was being used solely for short-term lettings, despite not having appropriate planning permission.
Meanwhile Focus Ireland's director of advocacy, Mike Allen, told the Oireachtas committee it was his belief that short-term lettings on the Airbnb website was not the cause of the homeless crisis in Dublin.
“Focus Ireland’s analysis of the situation would be that Airbnb is absolutely not the cause of our homeless crisis. It’s obviously a service that plays a valuable contribution to tourism in Dublin and elsewhere.
“What we have here is a disruptive business entering into an extremely regulated sector,” said Mr Allen.