The situation whereby “tens of thousands” of houses and apartments that are not compliant with planning laws are being advertised for short term letting is “an absolute disgrace” and it is “time to get tough” with online platforms such as Airbnb, Sinn Féin has said.
Dublin Fingal TD Louise O’Reilly said the practice of people not complying with planning law in relation to short term letting has to be eradicated.
Ms O’Reilly was speaking as the Short-Term Lettings Enforcement Bill 2022, brought forward by her colleague Eoin Ó Broin, was being debated in the Dáil on Tuesday.
The proposed legislation would fine estate agents and online platforms such as Airbnb who advertise properties without the appropriate planning permission or exemption.
The Government said it would not oppose the Bill but that it was not the “most appropriate mechanism” to achieve its objectives.
Minister of State with Responsibility for Local Government and Planning Peter Burke said the Government had already agreed to develop a new regulatory control requiring short term and holiday lets to register with Fáilte Ireland.
Mr Burke said officials from his department and the department of Tourism were working with Fáilte Ireland on the new registration system, which is intended to become operational by early 2023.
On the spot fines
He said on the spot fines, as proposed by Mr Ó Broin, would be “out of step” with the existing approach and practice under the Planning and Development Act.
“On the spot fines are generally applied on routine minor offences with fairly nominal penalties,” he said.
“Planning offences are generally regarded as being more substantial, requiring conviction by the courts and the application of more substantial penalties including fines and or imprisonment as appropriate.
“It is considered that such a departure from the existing approach under the Planning Development Act would not be justified.”
Mr Ó Broin said the overwhelming majority of properties that are listed on sites such as Airbnb do not have planning permissions or exemption certificates and “therefore they are operating outside of the law”.
“The bill I’m introducing today is one small, simple but I think effective tool to address that and would very simply require any estate agent or any short term letting platform to require the host to give evidence that they have an exemption of planning permission before they’re allowed to be advertised,” he said.
“If any estate agent or online platform like Airbnb advertises properties and potentially profit from properties that don’t have planning permission, they should be hit with a spot fine.
“I think the spot fine is the best way to do it because I think you could set a rate as Minister for a spot fine, that would come in at or above the amount of money that the platform would accrue if that property was short term letted on that particular day. They could also increase incrementally for serial offenders.”
Ms O’Reilly said she had been contacted last week by a 61-year-old woman who was living in her car and that this was “no way for people to live”.
The Sinn Féin TD pointed to recent research conducted by Times Ireland that showed there were more short-term holiday lets available on Airbnb than long-term rentals listed on Daft.ie in all 26 counties.
“Laws are being broken and nothing is being done because local authorities are not monitoring, to enforce compliance with the regulations,” she said.
“We have to get real here. We have to eradicate this practice whereby people not complying with planning law are allowed to cause tens of thousands of possible rental homes to be taken off the market.”