In order to ensure that entire dwellings that could be used for long-term rental accommodation are not lost to the rental market in favour of short-term letting, but seeking to facilitate the continued use of rooms within a person’s own home (known as “homesharing”) for short-term tourism letting or the short-term rental of an entire home for a limited number of days (90 days), the following changes to the planning code are being proposed:
- From 1 June 2019, it will no longer be possible to rely on exempted development provisions to let, under short-term letting arrangements, a house or rooms in a house, that is not a person’s principal private residence. Planning permission will be required in such a case for a formal change of use.
- ‘Short-term letting’ will be defined as ‘the use of a bedroom or bedrooms in a home as paid overnight guest accommodation for a continuous period of up to two weeks’.
- Where a house or apartment is a person’s principal private residence, they will be permitted to rent out a room (or rooms) within their home for short-term letting without restriction (e.g. B&B-type use) but will only be allowed to sub-let their entire house without planning permission on the short-term market for a cumulative period of 90 days or less annually.
- Homes, apartments or larger housing developments which have a specific grant of planning permission for use as holiday accommodation / short-term letting will not need to rely on the above exempted development provisions or indeed notification procedures below.
- For the avoidance of doubt, the changes will confirm that use of any house or apartment for short-term letting use will be a ‘material change in the use’ of the structure. In other words, any new short-term letting use in a house or apartment will be deemed to be development requiring planning permission except where the above exemptions apply.
- In all cases where a property owner intends to rely on the amended exemptions proposed, they must now notify their local planning authority at least every year. Each planning authority will maintain a record of such notifications and can use this list as a basis for assessing the cumulative impact of properties being made available for short-term letting in an area and also for monitoring and enforcement, where appropriate.
- While these changes to the planning code will not in some cases affect uses which were established before the changes come into effect, there will be a new requirement to notify the relevant planning authority of the continuation of such established uses, to assist planning authorities in monitoring and in planning enforcement (i.e. where a short-term letting use has resulted in the material change in use of a house or apartment, without being able to rely on an exemption, this may result in prosecution for unauthorised development). It shall be an offence to fail to comply with these new notification requirements.
The purpose of these changes to the planning code is primarily to address the longer-term rental issues arising from the use of properties for short-term letting. Recognising that the development of a new regulatory or licensing system for short-term letting hosts and commercial platforms would likely take time to be developed and come into force, the early introduction of these amended Regulations, which are expected to have effect from the middle of 2019, substantially addresses these issues.
In this context, the broader regulation of tourism activity and oversight of the short-term letting market can be developed by way of specific legislation under the relevant Government Department or agency. Complementary amendments to primary planning legislation will be proposed in parallel with the amendments to the planning regulations, to reinforce and provide clarity as to when short-term letting becomes a material change in use which requires planning permission.
Details of proposed exempted development provisions for homes
In general, a person will be able to let rooms in their own house or apartment (their principal private residence) year round without planning permission as per existing planning exemptions (this includes B&B’s).
Houses and apartments will also be able to avail of a 90-day cumulative period per year exemption for short-term letting of the ‘entire home’ (i.e. for a period or periods of up to 2 weeks at a time, which add up to no more than 90 days in any calendar year).
However, to assist in the enforcement of these new rules by planning authorities, from 1 June 2019, in order to avail of these exemptions, either through letting rooms in their house or availing of the 90-day ‘entire house’ exemption, the host must inform the relevant planning authority in writing in advance of their intention to rely on the exemption, also confirming that the house is their principal private residence for the entire period of the exemption, and must provide at the end of each year details of the number of days and specific periods they relied on the 90-day ‘entire house’ exemption in that year.
- These policy reforms will be introduced through amendments to the Planning Regulations 2000-2018 as well as through a short piece of complementary primary legislation.
- The information submitted to the planning authority above will be held on a register.
- These rules relate to planning law and will not affect any tenancy or management agreements which may already prohibit or regulate short-term letting of residential properties. The rules will also not affect any long-term residential tenancy or “rent-a-room” schemes.
- In general, short-term letting will relate to residential property lettings (for tourism or otherwise) to different occupants for periods of 14 days or less. Residential letting periods for longer than 14 days shall not be considered to be ‘short-term letting’.
- Amendments to primary legislation will clarify that any short-term letting of houses or apartments, except where permitted by the amended exempted development provisions proposed, will be a ‘material change in use’ which will require planning permission.
- Any short-term letting use which is not a material change in use (and therefore does not require planning permission) and which was established prior to these changes, and which will continue after the changes come into effect, will now be required to be notified to the relevant planning authority for monitoring and enforcement purposes. Any short-term letting, which is deemed by a planning authority to be a material change in use (to be decided on a case-by-case basis) and which cannot rely on the exemptions, will require planning permission. Any unauthorised development can be the subject of planning enforcement.
- Each Planning Authority’s Enforcement Unit will be responsible for monitoring and enforcing these new requirements.
- In this regard and recognising the acute pressure on rents in the Dublin area, additional resources will be provided to Dublin City Council to assist in proactive monitoring and enforcement of these amended regulations.
- Further guidance will be provided to Planning Authorities on policy considerations in assessing planning applications for short-term letting uses, including the consideration of residential amenity of neighbouring properties and national and local housing provision policies, including, for example, whether the property is situated within a rent pressure zone, an area experiencing high rent inflation, and whether there is a sufficient supply of rental properties available for longer-term rental in the area.
For the avoidance of doubt, these new provisions will not effect:
- Normal house or apartment letting, or extended-stay accommodation, or rent-a-room schemes (i.e. for periods longer than 14 days).
- Short-term letting/ holiday accommodation/ B&B accommodation where the house or apartment has planning permission for this use.
Enforcement and sanctions
Planning enforcement is a criminal, not a civil, matter: people not in compliance with these changes risk criminal conviction under the Planning Acts. Planning Authorities will be responsible for enforcement, seeking injunctions and for court actions.
- Mary lives in the 2-bedroom house in Cork that she owns near the sea. She wants to let a room occasionally on Air BnB, especially during the summer months. Can she?
Yes, she can let out her room year round, or the entire house for up to 90 days. She has to register with the council for her proposed short-term letting, as well and indicating which days (up to a total of 90) she intends to let out the whole house.
- Gemma lives in a one-bedroom apartment in Dublin and has a 2-year rental agreement and is going away for the Summer. She wants to let out her whole apartment for the Summer. Can she?
Yes, under the new regulations, she will be able to enjoy the same flexibility as someone who owns or lives in a house, but as it’s only a one-bedroom apartment, she can only rent it out full for a maximum of 90 days per year. The same registration requirements apply for Gemma.
- Breda and Martin own an apartment in Temple Bar that they bought as an investment. They used to rent it out to long-term tenants but now prefer to let it through short-term letting sites. They find they are occupied for 40 weekends a year and are nearly always full in the summer. Can they continue the STL?
No. Under these new legislative proposals they would need to seek a specific planning permission for this type of use as it is not their principal private residence. As Dublin is in a high demand area, it is unlikely that permission would be granted but this would be a matter for DCC.
- Mike and John own a four-bedroom house which is their principal private residence (PPR). They let one of the rooms to a long-term tenant and the other room they keep on short-term letting websites. They find they have it rented for about 120 days a year. Can they continue?
Yes. If the house is their PPR, they can rent out the rooms on STL all year long, using the existing B&B exemptions. They need to register this with the council.
- Bigcompany Ltd owns 6 apartments in a block in Dublin and operate a business renting them out on short-term letting websites for most of the year. Can they?
No, unless they have a specific planning permission that permits short-term letting. Under the proposed legislative changes, they would need a specific planning permission for this type of use, as Dublin is in a high demand area, it is unlikely that permission would be granted but this would be a matter for DCC.
- Jimmy runs a BnB in his (PPR) house in West Galway. Some of the rooms are let through short- term letting websites for up to half the year. Can he continue?
Yes, because his B&B use is exempt under present planning regulations (Article 10(4)). This exemption will be continued as part of the legislative proposals, although he will still need to register his property with the planning authority, as he is availing of the planning exemptions.
- Friendly Corporate Let Ltd. owns a block of apartments which they provide as landing spots to employees of companies in Ireland coming from abroad. How will they be affected?
If the length of stay of each letting exceeds 2 weeks, then under the new regulations, it would not constitute short-term letting and would be viewed as normal residential use. However, if they operate short-term letting for any individual letting (i.e. for periods of less than two weeks at a time), then planning permission will be required for a change of use, unless the permission associated with the property already permits such uses.