No Airbnbs in Westmeath have been registered with council

Not a single property in Westmeath has been registered with the council for short-term letting through websites such as Airbnb, despite laws which came into effect three years ago requiring owners of such properties to register with the local authority.

Regulations introduced in July 2019 required property owners to register with the council if they were letting all or part of a premises for short-term stays.

People renting out properties for short-term use in 'rent pressure zone' areas, such as Athlone and Mullingar, were told they would need to obtain 'change of use' planning permission from the council.

However, these requirements have been widely ignored throughout the country over the last three years, with local authorities reportedly lacking the tools or manpower to enforce them.

Westmeath County Council Director of Services Barry Kehoe confirmed to the Westmeath Independent that "no registrations have been received" by the council for short-term lets "since the new regulatory regime was introduced in 2019."

New regulations due to be introduced this November will aim to ensure online platforms such as Airbnb do not advertise properties for short-term lets if the properties don't have the correct planning permission.

The regulations in November are to be temporary, until a new registration system for short-term lets and holiday lets is put in place next year. Under this new registration system, homeowners will have to register short-term lets and holiday lets with Fáilte Ireland.

The ban on advertising short-term lets if they don't have the required planning approval was initially due to come into effect on September 1, but its introduction has been pushed back to November 3.

The Irish Times reported that landlords and portals such as Airbnb will face fines of up to €5,000 each time they advertise short-term lets in rent pressure zones that do not have the proper permission.

A recent search by this newspaper on Airbnb found over 50 properties in Westmeath which were being advertised for rental as an entire unit for short-term use.

In contrast, on the same day, there were just 13 properties being advertised for long-term rental in Westmeath on the website.