The impacts of Japan’s new Airbnb regulations are due to come into full effect on June 15, aiming to regulate the recent rise in 民泊 (みんぱく or Minpaku) known as private lodgings or guest houses in Japan. In direct response to the growing numbers of tourists, and with accommodation vacancies drying up across the nation, the ruling was meant to increase choice and flexibility by easing the burden on the accommodation sector. In also sought to bring order to a previously grey and under-regulated industry.
Airbnb’s ascension locally has also rocketed as the influx of tourism continues to gain momentum. The app’s popularity has not only helped holidaymakers by providing greater choice but also sees property owners grinning as the cash reels in.
For short-term accommodation owners, the new rulings come with some new restrictions such as a limit of 180 days, which essentially halves the amount of time a person can actually rent out their space. In contrast, the previous minimum stay of 6 days has been reduced to 2 days to improve flexibility and choice for potential travellers seeking this kind of hospitality.
Another ruling which will impact landlords is the new powers given to local area governments, who now have the final responsibility to monitor and enforce the new legislation. Some are even going beyond the newly introduced federal regulations, announcing stricter policies in the name of increased security and to limit noise.
For example, Tokyo’s Chuo ward has prohibited weekday rentals due to safety concerns in residential areas. Similarly, Shibuya’s Municipal has decided to only grant lodging in residential areas during school holidays for fear of children’s safety
As a result, owners who have a single unit in a larger apartment complex are now at the mercy of the governing body. Likewise, landlords who have buildings or entire homes in areas where a handful of local governments deem residential zones will face restrictions on rental periods to only certain times during the year.
Historically, Japan has always had a nearly identical system know as 民宿 (みんしゅく or Minshuku), which comprises of individual rooms within a house or building being offered as short-term accommodation. People who wanted to let rooms in this way had to apply for a special license, which had specific size restrictions for each room. There was also the need for a full-time management person to on site at all times.
However, the new legislation is trying to ease the pain on current and would-be licensees by eliminating these rules to allow for easier entry into the hotel business, and hoping to inspire more property owners to go down this path. The benefit for these owners is that they operate almost identically to a hotel, free of the any of the restrictions applicable to Minpaku.
Overall, it seems that on a pure numbers game, the number of properties available will initially shrink. However, whether that will encourage prospective investors to seek a hotel license for their larger buildings or homes, in order to help overcome the accommodation shortage for tourists remains to be seen, especially as the new ruling is still only 4 months new.