Can I rent my home out on a short-term basis, like on AirBnb, in Japan?

  • Currently, any leases for less than 30 days require either a hotel license or minpaku registration.
  • Failure to meet licensing requirements could result in jail or a fine, depending on the type and severity of the violation.
  • Most homes and apartments do not qualify under current regulations.

Recently, the Japanese government has been deregulating the hotel and short-term letting industry to provide more accommodation options for foreign tourists in the lead-up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. With the latest data putting Japan’s residential vacancy rate at 13.5%, this reform has been touted as a way to help fill up some of Japan’s 8 million empty homes, of which half are rentals.

AirBnb is already quite popular in Japan with listings ranging from traditional farmhouses in the countryside to contemporary apartments in downtown Tokyo.

The new short-term minpaku regulations now allow hosts to rent out their property on a short-term basis. Properties must still meet certain requirements, such as being in the correctly zoned location, having a building certificate, meeting minimum floor sizes, having lockable windows and doors, proper walls between rooms, adequate fire escapes, information provided in several languages, meet hygiene requirements and must meet construction and fire codes. If you plan to sub-let your apartment, you need your landlord’s permission. If you own your apartment, the home owners association must allow minpaku rentals in the building (most do not).

A registered minpaku-type property may rented for up to 180 days per year. Local governments have the authority to reduce this limit to an even lower number, and many already do. In Tokyo, each ward has introduced their own set of rules and limitations.

Growing competition

In May 2014, real estate company Able Inc. announced a new venture with Hyakusenrenma to create a similar service to AirBnb called ’Tomareru’. Landlords wishing to list their property on Tomareru.jp must meet the same requirements as set out under the hotel law and minimum stays will be 7 ~ 10 days (depending on the final decision of local governments).

Reuters reported that e-commerce company Rakuten Inc. was also thinking of starting a similar short-term rental service to AirBnb, but were looking at creating a service that was ‘easier to use’.

Internet portal giant Yahoo Japan had to stop offering short-term vacation rentals after Nagano Prefecture officials raised concerns over the legality of the service.

Beware of the risks

  • If you are considering listing your property in Japan on a short-term basis for less than 30 days, be sure to obtain the proper licenses or registration from the local government.
  • Go to the local city hall where the property is located, or visit the city website, to find out what is permitted.
  • If you want to sub-lease your property out, make sure this does not violate the terms of your own lease. Sub-leasing without the permission of your landlord could result in the cancellation of your rental contract.
  • If the property is in an apartment building, be aware that your frequent guest visitors may draw suspicion from your neighbours. The increasing number of share houses in apartment buildings is already causing lawsuits and disputes between owner associations and share house operators/landlords. The majority of owner associations across Japan have explicitly banned short-term letting, including AirBnb and even monthly-rentals. Make sure your building’s owners association permit short-term rentals – many don’t.

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