32 million Yen lawsuit filed against illegal Airbnb hosts in Osaka apartment building

The owners association of a condominium in Osaka’s Minami district have filed a lawsuit with the Osaka District Court seeking 32,670,000 Yen (approx. 300,000 USD) in damages from hosts providing illegal overnight accommodation in the building.

According to the association, 5 of the 100 apartments in the 10 year old building have been rented out to overnight guests using online booking sites, contravening the building management bylaws. The association made attempts to have the hosts, who also owned the apartments, stop the activity by imposing fines of 50,000 Yen per day and putting up posters in the building. However, their attempts were ignored.

The problem has been occurring for several years, with residents complaining of large numbers of tourists wheeling suitcases through the building, congregating and drinking in the common areas, smoking in the elevator, leaving trash in the hallways, and making loud noise in the apartments late at night. Many of the the incidents have been caught on the building’s security cameras.

In October 2015, Osaka City began to allow Airbnb-type rentals within the city’s National Strategic Zones, provided certain requirements are met and permission is obtained. As many as 463 rooms have been approved, but with over 10,000 listings on a major portal site, as many as 95% of the listings in Osaka are currently being operated illegally.

The city has received over 3,300 complaints from local residents about illegal short-term rentals as of June 2017, and has issued 887 cessation orders to hosts. However, the city has been struggling with identifying and contacting the majority of hosts.

Starting in 2018, short-term rentals (eg. for stays of less than 30 days) will be made legal nationwide but hosts must still meet numerous obligations, and will be limited to leasing their property for less than 180 nights per year. Hosts not living in the property will need to engage the services of an approved management company, while anyone looking to use an apartment for this purpose will need to obtain written permission from the building owners association, which is unlikely to be granted in the majority of buildings.

Sources:
The Yomiuri Shimbun, August 4, 2017.
The Nikkei Shimbun, August 4, 2017.