Plans to free up 12,000 properties for long-term rental in disarray as new Airbnb register delayed by EU

Fresh housing headache for Government after Green TD Neasa Hourigan suspended for 15 months over stance on Sinn Féin eviction ban motionGovernment now facing Labour no-confidence vote over evictionsCabinet initially hoped to have laws underpinning short-term letting register enacted by the end of March, but EU move has delayed them until the end of December

Stock image. Photo: Dado Ruvic/Reuters

Gabija Gataveckaite

The Government’s plans to free up an additional 12,000 rental properties have been hit with a fresh blow as the EU last night delayed plans for a new Airbnb register until the end of the year.

The EU has now delayed the short-term letting register until December.

The Government had initially hoped to have laws here underpinning the register enacted by the end of March, with the register set up “soon after”.

It is a fresh housing headache for the Government, after the Green coalition partners last night suspended rebel TD Neasa Hourigan for 15 months and stripped her of all committee roles. The Dublin Central TD had failed to back the Government against a Sinn Féin Dáil motion seeking to extend the eviction ban, which expires next week.

The Government won the motion, but it now also faces a Labour Party no-confidence motion over the same issue next week.

Last December, cabinet ministers signed off on plans for a new register in the hope of clamping down on property owners renting out homes on Airbnb and other short-term letting sites for periods of time longer than they are supposed to. The proposals were brought by Tourism Minister Catherine Martin. has previously reported a high numbers of homes on Airbnb being rented out to tourists at the same time there are very low numbers available for long-term rentals.

Councils have been slow to clamp down on short-term rentals that do not have the required planning permission.

The European Commission brought forward proposals for a common registration system for short-term rentals across Europe.

On December 21, the Government submitted its own bill to the European Commission for consideration.

As a result, a “standstill” period kicked in, which meant the proposed Irish laws could not be enacted.

However, the European Commission told the Department of Tourism yesterday that this is now being delayed until December.

The Department of Tourism said last night this “standstill” period has now been extended until December 22.

“The department will now examine the communication from the EU Commission and engage with stakeholders on next steps,” said a spokesperson.

Until this period has lapsed, the new laws cannot be enacted and the register cannot be put in place.

The department spokesperson added: “Until such legislation has been enacted there is no requirement to register.”

Last December, the Cabinet signed off on the new short-term letting register and new laws underpinning it. Ms Martin said previously she hoped the new laws would be enacted by the end of March. The register itself would have then been in place by June.

However, it is unclear now when the register will be in place if the laws will only get a green light from the EU in December.

Fianna Fáil senator Malcolm Byrne, who is a member of the Oireachtas Tourism Committee, said it is “important” the next nine months are used to get the scheme right.

“Everyone wants to maximise the number of long-term rental properties available but we cannot seriously damage rural and coastal tourism in the process,” he said.

“I am glad that [the] Government is looking at ways to get the balance right, and the EU decision gives us that time.

“I have spoken to a lot of rural tourism operators who are concerned about how proposals were going to be implemented.”

Under the laws, short-term letting websites will be fined up to €5,000 if they do not remove adverts of properties that are not officially registered.

Landlords who do not log their properties on the new register could also be fined up to €5,000 if their case is brought to the district court.

Fáilte Ireland will have the power to issue fixed fines of €300 to landlords who do not have a valid registration number on their ads.

The Government had hoped that the laws underpinning the new register would be enacted by the end of this month, with the register set up “soon after”.

Once the register was to be set up, short-term let operators were to have a six-month grace period to log their properties on the register.