Thursday 22 August 2019

Murphy pushed Airbnb crackdown on Ross - who is being blamed for 'softer regulation'

Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy. Picture: Collins
Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy. Picture: Collins
Hugh O'Connell

Hugh O'Connell

Tourism Minister Shane Ross is being blamed for the Government's failure to introduce a tougher crackdown on short-term letting platforms such as Airbnb.

An internal row between the Departments of Housing and Transport, Tourism and Sport (DTTAS) has resurfaced after it was reported yesterday the Government ignored a plan drawn up by officials to ban short-term letting platforms if they failed to abide by strict new rules.

Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy is insisting he did what he could to regulate short-term letting in a bid to free-up much-needed housing for the rental market.

The Fine Gael minister believes that regulating platforms such as Airbnb is ultimately a matter for the department headed by Shane Ross, the Independent Alliance minister.

"He moved as quickly as possible, within his remit, to bring homes onto the rental market for families and individuals living and working in our cities," Mr Murphy's spokesman said yesterday.

"The laws are in place and operating. Eoghan Murphy did what he could, as quickly as he could. Regulating the tourism industry is a separate issue from housing."

But Mr Ross's spokesman was insistent yesterday that his department has "no responsibility for regulating, licensing or registration of commercial platforms".

However, officials in Mr Murphy's department believe Mr Ross has ignored his responsibilities in this area. "We went to [his department] and said this was your baby and they rebuked furiously and said it was a housing matter," one Department of Housing source said.

"Tourism didn't want to do it. We did as much as we could within our powers."

Mr Murphy brought in new rules last month which require hosts using Airbnb and other short-term letting sites to register their property with their local authority and apply for planning permission if they rent out an entire property for more than 90 days a year.

Local authorities have been given responsibility for enforcing the new rules which involve fines of up to €5,000 on hosts who are non-compliant.

But the 'Sunday Business Post' reported yesterday that a group of public servants devised a much stricter regime that would have seen short-term letting platforms only allow ads by hosts who had registered their properties with local authorities.

In addition, hosts who rented out their entire property for more than 90 days would be banned from taking any more bookings and short-term letting platforms and would face heavy fines and the loss of their State licence to operate if they did not comply.

Sinn Féin housing spokesman Eoin Ó Broin said that responsibility for introducing tougher regulations lies with Mr Murphy, and said he would have to revisit the issue.

"It should be a planning offence to advertise non-compliant short-term lets," Mr Ó Broin said. "As the enforcement of planning issues falls within the remit of local authorities, Minister Murphy's argument that it is a tourism issue and therefore falls to Minister Ross to regulate doesn't hold up."

Irish Independent

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