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.
This month, two companies that both specialize in operating short-term Airbnb-style letting, have been issued cease-and-desist orders from Kyoto City for providing accommodation without the required licenses or permissions. These are the first crackdowns in Japan since the new short-term accommodation law was introduced on June 15, 2018. Hosts found operating illegally now face fines of up to 1 million Yen (approx. 8,900 USD).
A month has passed since Japan’s new rules for home-sharing were introduced. Strict registration requirements have caused a large number of hosts to drop out of the market. In Kyoto City, the number of approvals sits at 47 as of July 13, a stark difference to the 3,000-plus lodgings that were operating beforehand.
Kanagawa Prefecture has approved a special rule that will restrict minpaku-style short-term and overnight accommodation by hosts in the mountain-top hot-spring town of Hakone.
Under the new rule, short-term rentals are banned in 18 districts designated as Category I Tourist Districts located within Category I Exclusively Low-Rise Residential Zones in Hakone Town. Up to 80% of the homes in these districts are holiday homes.
Properties in these zones cannot be rented out for short-term stays between March 1 ~ June 1, August 1 ~ September 1, and October 1 ~ December 1. It is important to note that these are the popular tourist seasons for the town. Renting outside of these periods requires the host to register their accommodation.
With less than a month until Japan’s nationwide short-term letting (minpaku) law goes into effect, applications from potential hosts in Kyoto City remain in the single digits.
The city’s application desk has received six applications, while zero have been approved. Kyoto City has the strictest minpaku rules in the country, with properties in exclusive residential zones limited to operations for up to 60 days per year between January 15 and March 15 (the winter months). Properties outside those zones that are not occupied by hosts must have a licensed property manager stationed around the clock within a 10 minute radius of each property. There are some exceptions for properties where the host lives on the premises, and for traditional machiya townhouses.
On February 23, Kyoto City approved a local ordinance that will impose strict rules on hosts of unlicensed short-term ‘minpaku’ accommodation.
For properties located in exclusive residential zones, hosts can only provide accommodation for a maximum of 60 days per year and only during the off-season winter months from January 15 to March 15. Both traditional machiya townhouses and properties where the host also lives on the premises may be exempt if certain requirements are met.
A survey of condominium management associations across Japan has found that only 0.3% have decided to allow Airbnb-type short term letting. Over 80% have already updated building bylaws to ban any of these ‘minpaku’ rentals, while the remainder are still in the process of making a decision.
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.