Irish Government approves short-term rental registration scheme

Ireland: The Irish Government has approved the priority drafting of a registration scheme as part of the Short-Term Tourist Letting Bill and the publication of the General Scheme of the Bill.

Minister Micheál Martin, accompanied by Darragh O’Brien, minister for housing, local government and heritage, Fáilte Ireland CEO Paul Kelly and Catherine Martin, minister for tourism, culture, arts, Gaeltacht, sport and media, welcomed the move as a milestone in implementing the government’s Housing for All policy.

Housing for All is described as a commitment to the development of new regulatory controls to ensure that houses are used to best effect in areas of high housing demand. The new register will ensure that properties built for residential accommodation will be used for that purpose, and Fáilte Ireland [the National Tourism Development Authority] estimates that up to 12,000 properties could come back into the long-term rental market [or the residential housing market] as a result.

As outlined under the Bill, a new Short-Term Tourist Letting register will be established for accommodation providers providing lodging for up to and including 21 nights, which will need to be registered with Fáilte Ireland. Online and offline platforms advertising properties for short-term letting will be obliged to have a valid registration number [FI] number provided by Fáilte Ireland, with authorised officers appointed to oversee adherence of the system.

Property owners who advertise their property without a valid FI registration number would be liable to pay a €300 fixed payment notice, and could face a maximum fine of up to €5,000 should they bring cases to the district court. Platforms found to be advertising properties in breach of the registration scheme could also be handed fines of up to €5,000 per invalid listing.

The register is designed to:

  • Provide the Department of Housing and Local Authorities with an accurate register of all short-term letting stock across Ireland
  • Allow Fáilte Ireland, for the first time, to have a full picture of tourist accommodation across the state, significantly enhancing their ability to promote and drive tourism investment
  • Deliver on the Housing for All commitment to introduce new regulations in the area of short-term tourist letting

According to the government, the bill will also address the staffing challenges facing tourism businesses by providing housing options to tourism and hospitality workers, and provide a “level playing field” for all accommodation providers by ensuring transparency and visibility across the sector.

Minister Micheál Martin said: “As minister for tourism, I am committed to growing the tourism sector in a sustainable manner. The measures announced today are an important step in addressing the availability of private residential rental accommodation. Housing for All includes an objective to make more efficient use of existing housing and we are aware that in some parts of the country an imbalance has emerged between the short-term and long-term rental markets.

“We have examined the international context and conducted significant research in this area, which has illustrated the issues caused by an imbalance in supply. These new regulatory controls will ensure balanced and sustainable tourism development.

“Addressing the housing challenges will also help address the staffing issues facing many tourism businesses as it will provide housing options to tourism and hospitality workers in these areas. Working with the Oireachtas [the Irish National Parliament comprising two Houses of the Oireachtas – Seanad Éireann and Dáil Éireann], I hope that the legislation will be enacted in Q1 2023.

“To minimise disruption to the tourism industry and to tourists, property owners operating within the sector that need to apply for change of use planning permission are allowed, for a time limited period of up to six months, to continue to offer their accommodation as tourist accommodation while their application is being considered. These new measures will bring our approach to regulation in line with major tourism destinations across Europe, including Amsterdam, Paris and Barcelona,” he added.

Minister 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.

“Tourism is an important part of the Irish economy but we need a balanced and appropriate mix of private rental accommodation and short-term letting accommodation in this country – a balance which fully reflects the housing needs of those who live here. Through this proposed Fáilte Ireland registration system, we will be able to ensure that a greater amount private rental accommodation will be provided – particularly in urban areas of high housing demand.

“This registration system is another element of our national Housing Strategy, Housing for All and a key piece in the jigsaw. My department and I will continue to work with the Department of Tourism to speed up the introduction of these new provisions,” he added.

Fáilte Ireland CEO Paul Kelly said: “Fáilte Ireland is working closely with our colleagues in the Department of Tourism and the Department of Housing on the development of the Short-Term Tourist Letting Registration System as outlined in the government’s Housing for All policy. As part of this work, we have conducted detailed research into the experience of cities and countries across the world and have designed a registration system which will allow property owners to quickly and easily register short term letting properties.

“As the National Tourism Development Authority, Fáilte Ireland is mindful of the need to balance an appropriate mix of long-term private rental and short-term letting accommodation. Fáilte Ireland will also continue to work with Local Authorities across the country to ensure any housing stock that is not suitable for private housing may continue to be used for tourism purposes.

“We look forward to working with the tourism industry and relevant stakeholders on the implementation of the registration,” he added.

Airbnb said that it “welcomed” the potential introduction of the short-term letting register.

Derek Nolan, head of public policy for Ireland at Airbnb, said: “Everyday families in Ireland rely on Airbnb for affordable accommodation and for additional income, ever more vital as the cost of living continues to rise. Clear and simple rules are good news for everyone and will help more families share their homes to boost their income, while making communities in Ireland stronger.”

However, while the Irish Self-Catering Federation [ISCF] said that it too welcomed the introduction of a short-term rental register, it voiced “major concerns” for the future of the tourism industry in 2023.

Máire Ní Mhurchú, chair of the ISCF, said: “We welcome the introduction of the register, and we also welcome the announcement of a six-month transitionary period which will give our members confidence to take bookings for the 2023 season. However, we are concerned that the management of the planning requirements across the board haven’t been fully resolved or considered.

“Every property undertaking registration [approx 30k] will now require planning permission.

“We ask for clarity for our members, many of whom have been in business for over seven years, and we will continue to negotiate with government on their behalf over the next three-month pre-legislative period,” she added.

A registration scheme in England has moved a step closer this week after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak pledged his commitment to its introduction, while the Scottish Government has decided to delay its own licensing scheme deadline.