Property owners and online platforms who breach new rules on the short-term letting of properties to tourists face fines of up to €5,000 under proposals approved by the Cabinet on Wednesday.
There has been concern in recent years that the growth of online accommodation platforms such as Airbnb has led to a reduction in the number of properties available on the long-term rental market. It is hoped that a short-term tourist letting register, to be run by Fáilte Ireland, could lead to as many as 12,000 homes being freed up for longer-term use at a time of acute housing shortages.
Under the plans, property owners offering accommodation for periods of up to and including 21 nights will need to be registered with Fáilte Ireland. The tourism agency is to monitor online platforms to ensure compliance with the obligation for advertised properties to have a valid registration number.
These numbers will be linked to Eircodes, which will allow local authorities to more easily check if the properties have the correct planning permission for short-term letting. Special planning permission is required for short-term letting in cities and towns in Rent Pressure Zones (RPZs), particularly for people letting out properties they are not living in themselves.
Fáilte Ireland will be able to levy a €300 fixed penalty notice on property owners that advertise their property without a valid registration number. It will also have the option of bringing cases to the District Court where the maximum fine is up to €5,000.
Online platforms can be fined up to €5,000 for each listing of a property that does not have a valid registration number.
A Government source said that there will be an onus on property owners to inform Fáilte Ireland of the status of their planning application.
Minister for Tourism Catherine Martin said she hopes legislation allowing for the establishment of the register will be enacted by the end of March. She said the new measures will bring Ireland into line with major European tourism destinations such as Amsterdam, Paris and Barcelona.
There will be a six-month period to allow property owners to continue to offer short-term lets to apply for change of use planning permission in an attempt to minimise disruption to the tourism industry. There will be a registration fee to be paid by the owners of short-term letting properties from when the system is in operation next year but the sum involved has not yet been decided upon.
Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien said: “We believe there is great potential for the long-term rental market in the significant numbers of properties currently being used for short-term lettings.”
Social Democrats housing spokesman Cian O’Callaghan said the plans are “long overdue” and regulation of the short-term letting market must also include a nationwide extension of RPZs.
“The current definition of a Rent Pressure Zone leaves significant portions of the population unprotected from astronomical rent increases and allows an unregulated short-term letting market to continue unchecked,” he said.
Officials from the Department of Tourism met representatives of Airbnb, Expedia and Booking.com on Wednesday to brief them on the planned legislation.
An Airbnb statement said the decision to introduce the new register “is a welcome step forward towards creating clear, simple and enforceable home sharing rules in Ireland”.
It said it recognises the “historic housing challenges facing Ireland and we want our platform to be part of the solution”. The company outlined how it previously announced measures to support “responsible hosting” including a proposal for a host register.
It said the majority of its hosts in Ireland are “everyday families who share their primary home and rent their space for just three nights a month on average” and more than half say they host “to afford the rising cost of living”.
Expedia Group also welcomed the proposed legislation saying it “believes balanced regulations can serve local communities and drive the short-term rental industry forward.”