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The government’s plans to attempt – for a second time – to regulate short-term lets were dealt a blow last year when the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) said it wouldn’t enforce the new rules.
The government’s housing strategy, Housing for All, says that Fáilte Ireland, the National Tourism Development Authority, will establish a register to regulate short-term lets and the RTB will enforce it.
Fáilte Ireland would regulate short-term lets “with a view to ensuring the availability of long-term residential accommodation, balanced with the needs of the tourism sector”, says Housing For All.
But in February 2022, Pádraig McGoldrick, an assistant director of the RTB, wrote to Fáilte Ireland, saying that the RTB would not take on the enforcement role for the proposed register, as the changes would not be effective.
Discussions between the government bodies had made it clear that “what was proposed in Housing For All as a measure was not so well formed and, in itself, was not contributing to the stated intention of ensuring a more efficient use of existing housing stock or ensuring homes are used to better effect in areas of most pressing housing need,” he wrote.
The Department of Housing agreed that for the RTB to work as the enforcer of the register “would be directly at odds with our remit and mission”, McGoldrick wrote.
Neither the Department of Housing nor the Department of Tourism responded to queries sent Friday, including one asking why a tourism organisation is being put in charge of returning short-term lets to long-term housing use.
A spokesperson for Fáilte Ireland said that tourism cannot and does not exist in isolation of local communities. “For communities to thrive, there must be a balanced mix of long-term private rental and short-term letting accommodation for tourists.”
“Fáilte Ireland will also continue to work with Local Authorities to ensure any housing stock that is not suitable for private housing may continue to be used for tourism purposes,” says the spokesperson.
Councils have struggled to clamp down on short-term lets operating without planning permission, and to manage a previous register introduced in July 2019. That system never really took off because most hosts simply did not sign on.
The Fáilte Ireland register will be different from the council one because all short term let hosts will be given a registration number. As well as fining hosts who are not registered, Fáilte Ireland can also fine the platforms that advertise homes without a valid registration number.

The Back and Forth

In September 2021, a series of meetings began between staff from the RTB, Fáilte Ireland, the Department of Housing and the Department of Tourism about establishing the short-term lettings regulation through a Fáilte Ireland registration system.
But in February 2022, staff at the RTB wrote to Fáilte Ireland saying that they didn’t see a role for themselves in policing the new register.
“As things stand, there is no direct role or need for the RTB in the context of the measures being proposed in relation to short term lets,” wrote Lucia Crimin, head of investigations and sanctions with the RTB.
Weldon Mather, head of accommodation development with Fáilte Ireland, wrote back. “We are surprised at this change in the RTB position,” he said.
The role of the RTB is laid down in Housing for All, he said and numerous meetings have taken place since September in which “both agencies were positively engaged in a joint approach”.
McGoldrick wrote back to Mather to say that staff in the Department of Housing and the Department of Tourism agreed that the proposed rules were not well formed. “All parties, both Departments and ourselves clearly agreed that and confirmed that gap at our most recent meeting.”
“What has also become even more clear to us and based on further discussions with the Department of Housing, is that the purported role for the RTB, to be tasked with this extended enforcement role, is even less well formed, and will not support the direct or wider intention of better outcomes in the tenancy rental sector,” he wrote.
“What is proposed for the RTB would not add value and would be directly at odds with our remit and mission,” wrote McGoldrick. Taking it on would “put at risk the ability of the RTB to deliver on its core responsibilities”, he said.

Take Two

This is the second major attempt to regulate the short-term lets sector in recent years.
In July 2019, the then Minister for Housing, Fine Gael TD Eoghan Murphy, brought in new legislation, requiring homesharers in rent pressure zones to register with the local council.
Anyone renting a full home for more than 90 days per year has been required to apply for “change of use” planning permission, according to a Department of Housing circular issued to councils in June 2019.
Dublin City Council said it would need an extra €750,000 for staff and resources to effectively enforce the new short-term-let regulations. The council got extra staff but there were widespread issues with enforcement and compliance.
There were thousands of properties on Airbnb at the time, according to data scraping websites like Inside Airbnb. But according to a council report issued in February 2020 only 315 property owners had registered for short-term letting.
As of December 2022 there were around 7,500 hosts on Airbnb in Dublin, according to Inside Airbnb.
In April 2021, a Dublin City Council spokesperson said that the council’s enforcement efforts were having an impact though, and it had issued 952 warning letters for breaches of short-term letting rules.

A New Register

In December 2022, the Department of Tourism proposed new legislation.
If passed, Fáilte Ireland would be able to appoint its own authorised officers, with extensive powers, including to enter and search premises, seize documents and bring criminal prosecutions, according to the bill.
(The RTB also has similar extensive powers on paper, but rarely seems to use them.)
Once the new legislation is passed, all short-term letting companies offering accommodation for stays less than 22 nights would have to register with Fáilte Ireland, says the Department of Housing website.
Fáilte Ireland would issue short-term let operators with registration numbers and could fine an owner €300 on the spot for advertising their property without a valid registration number, or could pursue a prosecution in the district court, resulting in a maximum fine of €5,000.
The main difference between the proposed Fáilte Ireland register and the council’s register introduced in July 2019 appears to be that Fáilte Ireland could fine the hosting platform.
“For platforms, Fáilte Ireland can levy fines of up to €5,000 per invalid listing for advertising properties without valid Fáilte Ireland numbers,” says a Department of Tourism press release.
The Fáilte Ireland spokesperson says that councils will continue to enforce existing planning laws as well.
Fáilte Ireland is ready to launch the new register as soon as the legislation passes, she says. It established a new division for that purpose, she says.
“This division has been working over the last year to ensure all registration processes and procedures are in place in advance of the legislation being enacted,” says the spokesperson.
She didn’t directly respond to queries as to how many people Fáilte Ireland has hired.
The RTB didn’t respond directly to queries, including why McGoldrick thinks the new regulations won’t contribute to more efficient use of housing stock or why enforcing the short-term let register would be in direct conflict with the RTB’s remit and mission.
Instead, a spokesperson for the RTB said that the board doesn’t have a role in creating legislation and the regulation of short-term lets is a matter for the Department of Tourism, and Fáilte Ireland.
“The RTB will not have any role in the proposed Dept of Tourism/ Fáilte Ireland STL registration system which includes enforcement,” said the spokesperson.

Laoise Neylon

Laoise Neylon is a reporter for Dublin Inquirer. You can reach her at

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