Council staff to track Airbnb ads to block breaches of new rules

Eoghan Murphy (Niall Carson/PA)

Wayne O'Connor

Council staff are to be used to monitor Airbnb homeowners to make sure they do not flout new planning laws to clamp down on short-term letting.

House sharing platforms such as Airbnb will be checked and vetted by local authorities to ensure second homes in areas of high demand are not used for short-term stays.

Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy said it will be easy to detect rogue homeowners who breach the new rules.

Local authorities will be tasked with making sure homes being advertised on these platforms are not being rented-out on a short-term basis in areas worst hit by the housing crisis.

A new amendment to Residential Tenancies Act is set to come in to effect on July 1. It means homeowners will need planning permission to use their property for short-term letting in a rent pressure zone.

Mr Murphy said it is highly unlikely such applications would be granted.

"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, he or she will be required to apply for a change of use planning permission unless the property has a specific permission to be used for tourism or short-term letting," he said.

"It would be highly unlikely that planning permission would be granted for such short term lettings in rent pressure zones."

The new regulations will put a 14-day cap on rooms being used for short-term letting in such a zone.

An annual 90-day cap will be put on sharing a person's primary home while they are away from the property but planning permission will be needed to go beyond this limit.

There will be no restriction on letting a room in a person's primary residence.

People making their homes available for short-term letting will have to notify planning authorities of their intent to do so.

They must also notify the authority when they have reached the 90-day limit and "confirm all the details of homesharing undertaken at the end of each year", Mr Murphy told the Oireachtas Housing Committee yesterday.

"This activity has to happen in public for it to work. If somebody wants to let a property they have to advertise it and they do that online."

Failure to comply with the new rules carries a maximum penalty of €5,000 or six months imprisonment or both.

Last night an Airbnb spokeswoman called for users to be given a "grace period" to become familiar with the law and "allow a reasonable period of time between rules being finalised and enforced".

"Proposals have only very recently been finalised and it is impossible for us to give clarity at this point on how these rules will be implemented," she added.