Written answers

Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Department of Housing, Planning, and Local Government

Rental Sector

Photo of Cian O'CallaghanCian O'Callaghan (Dublin Bay North, Social Democrats)
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1389. To ask the Minister for Housing, Planning, and Local Government when he plans to regulate online platforms that provide short-term lets; the goal of the proposed regulations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6970/20]

Photo of Eoghan MurphyEoghan Murphy (Dublin Bay South, Fine Gael)
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The primary objective of the legislative changes introduced last year in relation to the regulation of short-term letting sector through the planning code is to help address its impact on the supply of private rented accommodation, particularly in urban centres of high housing demand i.e. rent pressure zones. The planning system facilitates the regulation of such short-term letting uses undertaken by the individual carrying out the activity, i.e. the owner/occupier of the house or apartment, rather than the online platforms. 

Under the Short-Term Letting legislation applicable in rent pressure zones:

- Short term letting is defined as the letting of a house or apartment, or part of a house or apartment, for any period not exceeding 14 days.

- Homesharing (the letting of a room or rooms in a person’s principal private residence) continues to be permissible on an unrestricted basis and is exempted from the new planning requirements.

- Homesharers are allowed to sub-let their entire principle private residence (house or apartment) on a short term basis for a cumulative period of 90 days where they are temporarily absent from their home.

- Where the 90 day threshold is exceeded, change of use planning permission is required.

If a person homeshares their principal private residence in a rent pressure zone and wishes to avail of the new planning exemptions, they need to register this with their local planning authority and fulfil specified reporting obligations.

However, where a person owns a property in a rent pressure zone which is not their principal private residence and intends to let it for short term letting purposes, s/he is required to apply for a change of use planning permission unless the property already has a specific planning permission to be used for tourism or short-term letting purposes.

The broader regulation of tourism activity, including the possible development of a new regulatory or licensing/registration system for commercial platforms and short-term letting agents - which was  recommended in the final Working Group report on the regulation of short-term lettings - is beyond the scope of the planning code and my remit.  However, I have previously written to my colleague, the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, outlining the recommendations made by the Working Group and highlighting the measures taken by my Department to act upon these recommendations, specifically the introduction of the short-term letting legislation. I advised the Minister that the remaining recommendations of the Working Group fell under the remit of his Department to action, and assured him of my support, and that of my Department, in addressing these outstanding recommendations.

The extent of former short-term rental stock which has become available during the COVID-19 Emergency has highlighted the need for a more sustainable regulatory regime for this form of accommodation, which meets the needs of both the tourism and housing sectors.  It will be a matter for the incoming Government, and particularly the incoming Minister with responsibility for the tourism sector, to decide on any further actions it may wish to take in relation to the possible regulation of online platforms.

As part of the immediate response to COVID-19, a number of properties formerly available as short-term lets were secured by local authorities to provide accommodation for households experiencing homelessness. The level of enquiries to local authorities indicates that there are considerable numbers of properties which have been previously rented as tourist accommodation.  Local authorities are engaging with property owners in relation to the use of such properties for longer-term social housing, including long-term leasing.   Given the number of households on the social housing waiting list, including the number of households in homeless emergency accommodation, it is important that as many of these properties as possible are converted from tourist accommodation to homes.  My Department will be continuing to work with the local authorities to support this work in the coming weeks and months.

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