Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy has pledged to enforce breaches of planning laws by landlords who abandon long-term letting in favour of short-term lets using Airbnb.
Mr Murphy said his department is close to agreeing a memorandum of understanding with Airbnb which will ensure the online accommodation service is being used appropriately by homeowners.
He said there would be no tolerance of those who are flouting planning laws by opting for commercial short-term letting with Airbnb or holiday letting companies, despite the apartment or house being zoned as a residence.
“Where people are in breach of the law, they will be prosecuted,” he said.
“We do have existing laws and we will make sure that we can enforce them properly.
“At the same time we do not want to deny people the opportunity that Airbnb gives to let out rooms, or their homes for a few weeks each year. We do not want to close that down,” he said.
According to Dublin City Council, there are more than 6,000 listings for accommodation in Dublin on Airbnb. The company has insisted that most are primary residences being let out by families while away on holidays, or where a single room is let out.
Mr Murphy was responding to the latest data which shows that rents have reached record levels in the State. A survey by property website daft.ie found that rents rose by 12 per cent between June 2016 and June 2017.
The Department of Housing pointed out there was a stark difference between the increase for the last six months of 2016 and the first six months of 2017. A spokesman said rent inflation in 2016 was running at 14.5 per cent but has fallen to an estimated 7.8 per cent in 2017.
This was partially attributed by the spokesman to the introduction of Rent Pressure Zones (RPZ).
As part of its efforts to ensure price predictability, the Government introduced zones where rent increases are limited to 4 per cent each year. As of January this year, there were 14 such zones throughout the State, although more are expected to be added, once the criteria for an RPZ is met. The Government believes the zones have had a dampening effect on rent increases.
Mr Murphy will be launching a review of the Government’s overall housing strategy, Rebuilding Ireland, in early September which will include more proposals to deal with rent prices.
The Government is also hoping there will be greater take-up for the rent-a-room scheme, which allows a household to earn up to €14,000 tax-free.
It is also understood Mr Murphy is considering new measures to protect tenants, including a deposit protection scheme and a deposit cap of one month’s rent. These will address situations where landlords have been demanding non-refundable deposits as well as deposits of two months rent or more.