Minister says time is right to act on Airbnb

O’Brien confirms that greater regulation of sector on way

Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien said existing rules on holiday lets were ‘decent’ but that enforcement has been an issue. Photograph: Damien Eagers / The Irish Times

Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien said existing rules on holiday lets were ‘decent’ but that enforcement has been an issue. Photograph: Damien Eagers / The Irish Times

 

Now is the time to further regulate short-term lettings such as Airbnb rentals before the resumption of international travel, the Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien has said.

Mr O’Brien confirmed comments he made privately to the Fine Gael parliamentary party that the Government intends to crackdown on Airbnb lettings that should not be advertising online.

Under the new plans a property would not be allowed to advertise on the platform without the requisite planning permission.

At present, individuals renting out a home for more than 90 days or landlords letting out a second property to tourists or others on a short-term basis must apply for planning permission either on a new or retention basis. There has been criticism, however, that this is not adequately regulated or enforced and homes are still being advertised without permission.

“Decent regulations were brought in in 2019 around the planning permission that would be required for any homes that are used for more than 90 days a year. The problem has been the enforcement of that frankly,” Mr O’Brien said in Dublin on Thursday.

“What we are working on in conjunction with Minister Catherine Martin’s department is a mechanism whereby you would regulate the platforms. Effectively what that means is that somebody would not be able to advertise a short-term letting property unless they had received the requisite planning permission to do so.

“Now is the time to do it particularly when we don’t have throngs of international visitors here. We have been working on this for some time. We have looked at other models in continental Europe in particular. Most capital cities in Europe have a stronger regulation than we have and I think we can do this in the short term.”

“I hope to conclude that (work) by the end of the summer,” he added.

Fine Gael senator Tim Lombard said that “Airbnb is effectively sucking the life out of rental markets in villages, towns and cities across the country, leaving local people locked out of accessing homes.”

He said that an Airbnb property which is occupied for three months during the summer season can make “significantly more money than a property rented out for 12 months.”

“However, by letting properties on a seasonal basis, large amounts of homes across the country are lying vacant for the vast majority of the year.

“During a time when we’re facing a critical lack of supply of housing, we can’t afford to have perfectly good homes lying empty for over 50 per cent of the year. “While tourists might want to book a holiday home for a two-week break during the summer, local families are left struggling to find a home at a price they can afford.”

Mr Lombard said that Kinsale has seen rental prices increase over the past few years due to lack of supply in the local property market.

“At the same time, we’ve seen hundreds of houses become available on the Airbnb website for holiday use. The majority of these houses are in residential areas, and when they received planning permission it was on the basis that the properties would be for residential use only.”