Thursday 23 January 2020

Rise in new Airbnb lets as landlords flout rules despite housing crisis

Extra 1,000 short-term rentals advertised despite homes crisis

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Caroline O'Doherty

Landlords are ignoring regulations aimed at clamping down on Airbnb and other short-term lettings in areas worst hit by the housing crisis.

The number of entire homes advertised for short stays on Airbnb rose by more than 1,000 in Dublin, Cork, Galway, Limerick and Waterford over the past year to almost 6,900.

That's despite moves by the Government to get properties used for the lucrative holiday market back in use as long-term homes. It comes against a backdrop where the number of homeless is more than 10,500, including 1,733 families.

Under the new rules, which came into effect in rent pressure zones last July, short-term letting is allowed for up to 14 days at a time, to a total of 90 days in a given year.

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But landlords are supposed to register such properties with their local authority and just 370 applications to register have been received to date.

Short-term letting for longer than a total of 90 days requires planning permission, but just 21 applications have been received. None has been granted, although three are under appeal to An Bord Pleanála.

But local authorities warn they are gearing up for a crackdown in the coming months after getting funding in recent weeks to recruit dedicated staff and establish specialist enforcement units.

Dublin City Council got its allocation ahead of the others and has already begun 220 investigations into suspect lettings.

It said it had issued 15 enforcement notices so far and initiated its first prosecution. It expected those numbers to rise substantially over the next few months.

"The council is monitoring notifications received, we have commenced proactive investigations of properties and are profiling and targeting properties on short-term lettings platform websites," it said. "It is anticipated that up to 1,000 properties will be investigated next year in respect of compliance with the regulations."

Galway City Council said it had received 20 complaints from the public and issued eight warning letters, while Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown sent three warning letters which resulted in compliance by the targeted property owners.

No complaints have been received in Limerick yet and no enforcement cases opened. Kildare, where all the main towns are rent pressure zones, has served one enforcement notice.

The Department of Housing said it was too early to judge the effect of the new regulations. "Local authorities are currently focusing on raising public awareness and advising homeowners of their obligations under the regulations.

"Once the advisory phase is completed, local authorities will focus on following up on lack of engagement and enforcement," it said.

It said progress reports would be required after six months. "Given the provision of dedicated funding to planning authorities to support the enforcement and implementation of the new provisions, we expect to see positive results from the enforcement in all affected local authority areas."

Penalties for breaches of the regulations include fines of up to €5,000 and prison terms of up to six months, although for the most serious offences under the planning code the maximum in theory could be €10m in fines and up to two years in prison.

AirDNA, which analyses letting trends on Airbnb internationally, cautioned that the figures currently available for short-term lettings included properties where bookings made in advance of the July regulations were being honoured but owners may intend removing the advertisement or restricting bookings to 90 days subsequently. But a quick visit to the Airbnb site reveals no shortage of properties available to book for more than 90 days in a single stretch or for fortnightly or shorter periods in all five main urban areas.

In total, AirDNA shows 6,878 entire homes available as short-term lets in those areas. An additional 4,542 listings are for private rooms or room shares within dwellings.

Limerick had the greatest growth in the number of homes for let over the year - up more than double from 85 to 202. Price rises for an average night were more modest in 2019 than in previous years, with Dublin hosts gaining the most through an increase from €143 to €153.

Prices vary enormously, and there are eight properties in Dublin available to rent in the coming weeks for €1,000 or more for a single night, including one at €3,700 a night, rising to €4,300 for a summer booking.

Irish Independent

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