‘Time to get tough’ with online platforms like Airbnb on short-term accommodation, says Sinn Féin – The Irish Times

The situation in which “tens of thousands” of houses and apartments that do not comply with planning laws are advertised for short-term rentals is “an absolute disgrace” and it is “time to get tough” with platforms in line such as Airbnb, Sinn Féin said.

Dublin Fingal TD Louise O’Reilly said the practice of people failing to comply with planning law on short-term rentals must be stamped out.

Ms O’Reilly was speaking as the Short-Term Rentals Enforcement Bill 2022, introduced by her colleague Eoin Ó Broin, was debated in the Dáil on Tuesday.

The proposed legislation would fine estate agents and online platforms such as Airbnb that advertise properties without the proper building permit or exemption.

The government said it would not oppose the bill, but it was not the “most appropriate mechanism” to achieve its goals.

Minister of State for Local Government and Planning Peter Burke said the government had already agreed to develop a new regulatory check requiring short-term and holiday rentals to register with Fáilte Ireland .

Mr Burke said officials from his department and the Department of Tourism were working with Fáilte Ireland on the new registration system, which is expected to become operational in early 2023.

Fines on the spot

He said immediate fines, as proposed by Mr Ó Broin, would be “out of step” with the existing approach and practice under planning and development law.

“Immediate fines are usually applied to routine minor infractions with fairly nominal penalties,” he said.

“Planning offenses are generally considered to be more serious, requiring conviction by the courts and the application of greater penalties, including fines and/or imprisonment, where applicable.

“It is considered that such a departure from the existing approach under the Planning Act would not be justified.”

Mr Ó Broin said the overwhelming majority of properties listed on sites such as Airbnb do not have building permits or exemption certificates and “therefore they operate outside the law”.

“The bill I am introducing today is a simple but effective little tool to address this problem and would very simply require any realtor or short-term rental platform to require the host to prove that ‘it has an exemption from building permits before they are allowed to be advertised,’ he said.

Real estate agent

“If a real estate agent or an online platform like Airbnb is advertising properties and potentially profiting from properties that don’t have planning permission, they should be hit with a one-time fine.

“I think the one-time fine is the best way to do it because I think you could set a rate as minister for a one-time fine, which would be equal to or greater than the amount of money the platform would earn if this property was short term rented that day. They could also increase gradually for serial offenders.

Ms O’Reilly said she was contacted last week by a 61-year-old woman who was living in her car and said it was “not a way for people to live”.

Sinn Féin TD pointed to recent research by Times Ireland which showed there were more short-term holiday rentals available on Airbnb than long-term rentals listed on Daft.ie in all 26 counties.

“Laws are being broken and nothing is being done because local authorities are not monitoring, to enforce regulations,” she said.

“We have to get real here. We must eradicate this practice whereby people who do not comply with planning law are allowed to have tens of thousands of potential rental units taken off the market.

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