Global vacation giant Airbnb speaks out on growing calls to cut NI rentals

A generic image of the Airbnb site in Northern Ireland

Airbnb, which was founded in 2008 in San Francisco, is facing the beginnings of a campaign against the extension of its properties in Belfast, and by extension, to the entire Province.

Airbnb essentially allows households to advertise their homes – ranging from tiny apartments to stately mansions – as available for rent through its glossy global website.

He then takes a cut of all the reservations that are made.

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Belfast SDLP adviser Gary McKeown last week called for a licensing system for Airbnbs in the city – something to be debated by the council on Monday.

Basically he is considering capping the number of Airbnbs in certain areas.

His complaints are twofold.

First, he fears that turning downtown homes into short-term vacation rentals will make it harder for locals to get housing.

And second, short-term guests can be a lot louder and disruptive than long-term renters.

His motion asks council to write to Stormont, asking MPs to look at “a strong and effective regulatory and licensing system.”

Airbnb has now responded by saying, “NI already has rules for tourist accommodation, and we recently presented proposals for a strengthened system to protect housing and promote the sustainable growth of housing sharing, which are being put forward by the British government. “

The company said that “only a tiny fraction” of any given community is made up of Airbnbs, and “nearly half” of UK hosts see their Airbnb income as “an economic lifeline.”


Currently tourist accommodation in Northern Ireland requires a certificate from Tourism NI.

These are valid for four years and involve an inspection of the property.

Anyone operating without a valid certificate faces a fine of up to £ 2,500 or six months in jail – or both.

Over the past two years, Airbnb has also advocated for what it calls “a clear, modern and straightforward registration system for short-term rentals in UK cities” – something somewhat like the licensing proposal. from Councilor McKeown.

Airbnb said that at present the system is “fragmented”, with different rules across UK countries.

For example, Airbnb says:

“Guests in Greater London are subject to a night limit restriction and cannot leave their space for short stays longer than 90 nights in a calendar year without planning permission from their local authority.

“Guests in Northern Ireland must register with the local tourism authority.

“This is a law that predates the existence of home sharing platforms or the widespread use of the Internet, as it was passed in 1992.

“The Scottish government has proposed licensing and planning requirements for short-term rentals to be vested in each of the country’s 32 local authorities. “

The company also calls on the government to “publish new planning guidance on the distinction between short-term commercial rental activity and non-commercial / hobbyist short-term rental activity.”

He adds that “we believe the standard definition of ‘commercial activity’ should be properties occupied for short-term rentals of more than 140 nights per year.”

In other words, if an Airbnb owner keeps the rental level below 38% of the year, they won’t be classified as commercial.

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