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Q&A: How will new plan to free-up short-term tourist letting properties help ease housing crisis?

Government hopes new rules on websites like Airbnb will free up as many as 12,000 properties for long-term accommodation

The Government hopes that new rules for short-term letting to tourists on websites like Airbnb will free up as many as 12,000 properties for long-term accommodation as part of efforts to ease the housing crisis. How will it all work, what will it mean for property owners and how will it return homes to the long-term market?

Q: What is the issue with short-term letting for tourists?

A: There has been concern in recent years at the number of properties being let out to tourists. While many of these are people making some extra income by renting out rooms in their homes, others are full properties being let out to the benefit of owners who can make even more than if it was in the long-term rental market. Fáilte Ireland - which will run a new registration system - estimates there are around 30,000 short-term tourist letting properties at present. The return of 12,000 of these for long-term use would be a significant contribution to increasing housing supply.

Q: This isn’t the first time attempt to crack-down on short-term letting is it?


A: No. In 2019 the last Government sought to restrict short-term letting by requiring owners to seek special planning permission in cities and towns that are designated as Rent Pressure Zones (RPZs). Under those rules registrations are restricted to those renting rooms in their own homes or letting out an entire property for no more than 90 days a year. Anyone looking to let a property on a short-term basis for more than 90 days a year need planning permission.

Q: How is that going?

A: Not very well. There has been low levels of registration and planning applications compared to the scale of properties being advertised for short-term letting. Enforcement of the planning permission rules has been a problem for local authorities due to difficulties in identifying advertised properties. Typically the property’s location is only fully revealed on the websites until after a credit card payment so anyone seeking the full address needs to make a booking. Under the new rules each advertisement will have to show the registration number of the property before payment is made. Each registration number is linked to an Eircode. Local authorities will have access to this information as they seek to enforce planning rules.

Q: When will the new Short-Term Tourist Letting Register be in operation?

A: The Government hopes to have legislation enacted by the end of March 2023. Fáilte Ireland chief executive Paul Kelly indicated his agency hopes to launch the system around that time.

Q: What will it mean for property owners?

A: People who want to offer short-term accommodation for periods of up to and including 21 nights will need to be registered with Fáilte Ireland. There will be a “clarification period” of up to six months. This will allow property owners who need to apply for change of use planning permission to continue to offer their accommodation to tourists while their application is being considered and processed. There will be a registration fee to be paid by the owners of short-term letting properties from when the system is in operation but the sum involved has not yet been decided upon.

Q: Will there be consequences for non-compliance?

A: Yes. Fáilte Ireland will have 10 staff monitoring websites for compliance with the registration rules. It will be able to levy a €300 fixed penalty notice on property owners that advertise their property without a valid registration number. It also has the option to bring the case 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.

Q: What do the online platforms think of all this?

A: Airbnb said the plan for a new register “is a welcome step forward towards creating clear, simple and enforceable home sharing rules in Ireland”. Expedia Group also welcomed the legislation saying it “believes balanced regulations can serve local communities and drive the short-term rental industry forward.”

Q: How exactly will the new register help free up as many as 12,000 homes?

A: That estimate is based on how similar measures have worked in other countries. The intention of the new registration system is for properties to be easily identifiable by local authorities seeking to enforce planning permission rules. Mr Kelly said that this “visibility” will allow local authorities to determine which of properties do not have appropriate planning permission and “that’s what will take them out of the system”.

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times