Saturday 24 August 2019

'Airbnb levy' on short-term let firms proposed

A new report has called for holiday letting sites to fund regulation of the sector

'In an interview with the Sunday Independent in September, Airbnb's Aisling Hassell said the company had to deal with a
'In an interview with the Sunday Independent in September, Airbnb's Aisling Hassell said the company had to deal with a "lot of anecdotes" in the debate around regulation.' Stock picture

Michael Cogley

A levy should be considered on companies like Airbnb and Booking.com to fund the regulation of the short-term letting sector, a report has suggested.

Short-term stays have been heavily criticised for removing stock from the rental market. The Government introduced a range of new regulations on July 1.

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These defined a short-term let as not exceeding 14 days, and require that short-term letting of an entire principal private residence while the resident is away will need planning permission, if the letting is for more than 90 days in a year.

The regulations were introduced off the back of a report from a working group, made up of stakeholders in the Department of Housing, Department of Tourism, Department of Business, Fáilte Ireland, the Office of the Attorney General, the Department of Finance, the Residential Tenancies Board, An Bord Pleanála and Dublin City Council.

While Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy introduced the recommended cap from the report, he did not push forward with a levy.

The working group said that regulation of the sector would "place a burden" on the State, and that funding would be required to mitigate hosts moving from one platform to another to evade the nightly limits. "To resource such activity, an annual licence fee should be considered on the online intermediary industry, albeit this levy is likely to be passed through to vendors and, ultimately, in part at least, vendees," the working group said in its report.

"Consideration should also be given to a one-off or annual registration fee for individual peer providers and/or a nightly host charge."

The working group also said that responsibility for enforcement would be accepted by the online intermediaries such as Airbnb and Booking.com.

It said the sites could make "fairly straightforward modifications" to their IT platforms to facilitate it.

"Compliance with the proposed measures by the online intermediaries would be gained through clear financial penalties, reputation risk of non-compliance, and other sanctions such as the revocation of their licence," it said.

Elsewhere in the report, it was recommended that each short-term letting site should provide a dedicated system where neighbours of advertised units can raise concerns or make complaints.

The working group also suggested the creation of a central registration system that will encompass all units offered on a short-term basis. The system would include the date they were registered.

In an interview with the Sunday Independent in September, Airbnb's Aisling Hassell said the company had to deal with a "lot of anecdotes" in the debate around regulation.

Airbnb also said that it was worth more than €700m to the Irish economy last year, according to figures released in July.

Sunday Indo Business

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