A year has passed since the introduction of new regulations covering short-term letting or Airbnb-style rentals in Japan. Take-up has been slow with just 6,438 registered properties across the greater Tokyo area, which includes Tokyo, Kanagawa, Chiba, and Saitama prefectures. Before the new law was introduced in June 2018, there were 16,000 properties listed on Airbnb’s website in Tokyo’s 23 wards alone.
The owner of an apartment in Tokyo who had been illegally letting it out for short-term ‘minpaku’ accommodation has been successfully sued by the building’s owners association. The Tokyo District Court ruled that the owner had violated the building’s bylaws and ordered the man to pay 970,000 Yen (approx. 8,700 USD) to cover the owners association’s legal fees.
Tokyo’s Chuo Ward is planning to introduce tight regulations that will ban minpaku-style overnight rentals in private residences from midday Mondays through to midday Saturdays, allowing a host to only operate on Saturday and Sunday nights. This regulation will override the new national law that will go into effect from June 2018.
Tokyo’s Ota Ward is the first district in Japan to ban all minpaku-style overnight or short-term accommodation in exclusively residential zones. On December 8, local councillors voted in favor of the ban with the rules to go into effect from June 15, 2018.
Ota was one of the first areas in Japan to actively promote and encourage short-term rentals. In January 2016 Ota ward allowed registered hosts of properties in approved ‘special zones’ to rent out accommodation for minimum stays of 6 nights without needing a hotel license. Normally a stay of less than 30 days would require a hotel license. Councillors have also voted in favor of reducing this stay to a minimum of 2 nights and 3 days.
On November 30 Kyoto City announced their proposed regulations for Airbnb-style short-term rentals. To provide support for complaints and emergency situations, hosts may be required to have a full-time manager stationed in an office within an 800 meter radius of the property. Hosts may also be required to submit a written oath to the city stating that they have not been operating an unlicensed BnB within the past 3 months.
These regulations will over-ride the new nationwide law set to go into effect from June 2018 that will allow overnight stays in non-hotels for up to 180 nights per year.
The owners association of City Towers Toyosu The Twin – a 48-storey, 1,063-unit condominium located on a man-made island in Tokyo Bay – entered into an agreement with a local provider to weed out any AirBnb-type rentals in the building.
This is the first of this type of agreement for a high-rise apartment building. The company providing the service is Tokyo-based Oscar Inc. The company operates the Minpaku Police website which allows neighbors to report suspected illegal short-term rentals. The majority of reports made to the website are regarding security and noise concerns.
Yokohama City is following in Shinjuku’s footsteps by proposing to introduce a ban on short-term Airbnb-style letting on weekdays. The plan would prohibit minpaku rentals from Mondays through Thursdays in areas zoned as Exclusively Low-Rise Residential. The plan will be open to public comment until December 19, with the draft to be submitted to the city council in February 2018.
Approximately 31% of Yokohama City’s area is designated as an Exclusively Low-Rise Residential Zone. The reasoning for the week-day ban is to ensure a peaceful environment for those who work during the week and do not want their neighborhood interrupted by travelers while trying to rest on weeknights.
Kyoto’s Economic Crime Investigation Division and the Ukyo Police Department have sent papers to prosecutors on a Nagoya-based real estate company under suspicion of illegally renting out a house in Kyoto City to tourists. A total of five people from the company, including the company president, are accused of acting as an intermediary for the property owner, by advertising the house as short-term accommodation on booking sites. This is a rare case where an intermediary or management company has been caught up in potential charges.
The 3-storey house was reportedly rented to foreign tourists on an overnight basis for around 50,000 Yen per night, without having any of the required hotel licenses or permissions. The house is in an exclusive residential zone, which currently prohibits any sort of hotel operations.
Kyoto City has started official discussions that may see Airbnb-type short-term rentals in certain residential zones limited to just the January and February months and for no more than 60 nights in total.
Hosts looking to rent out places in primarily residential neighbourhoods in central Kyoto, including areas around Kinkaku-ji temple and Nanzen-ji temple, may find themselves limited to the off-season winter months. Under the proposal, properties located in exclusive residential zones (Category I and II Exclusively Low-Rise Residential Zones, and Category I and II Mid/High-Rise Oriented Residential Zones) may only be rented to tourists for the months of January and February, with a maximum limit of 60 nights over those two months. There may be some relaxation of the rules for hosts who live in the properties or live nearby.
Those hoping to rent out their home legally on a short-term basis in Japan may have to wait a little longer as the government has delayed the de-regulation of the home sharing market until June 2018. According to the Japan Tourism Agency, the reason for the delay is to allow more time for local governments to formulate their own rules regarding the maximum number of nights permissible each year.
The government passed a law allowing short-term letting of homes and apartments in June 2017, with the rules initially expected to go into effect from January 2018.