National Framework For Airbnb-Style Rentals Coming to Japan

By Jeff Wynkoop

As we recently reported, the Osaka Metropolitan Government and Ota Ward in Tokyo just approved new ordinances to regulate the letting of rooms in private houses.

Please see Osaka Enacts Ordinance to Open Up Airbnb-Style Rentals for that post.

According to the mayor of Ota Ward, Mr. Matsuhara, hotels in Ota Ward have been operating at or near full capacity for some time, and the authorities hope the new rules will help alleviate the situation. There are already business operators of one room mansion-style apartment buildings gearing up for the likely start in Ota Ward in February 2016.

The above ordinances create an exception to the Hotel Business Law so that designated owners of private residences can let out rooms without violating the law, but the exception is only available in city wards currently specified as a “National Strategic Ward” (国家戦略特区).

However, representatives of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism and the Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare recently began working on private accommodation legal rules designed to apply all over Japan.

As an initial step, the various ministerial ordinances which currently apply to the Hotel Business Law will be amended by the end of this year.

In the spring of 2016, work will begin on preparation of a final statutory framework, with the goal of opening up the private accommodation business to all of Japan by April 2016.

In contrast to the Osaka and Ota Ward ordinances, the national statutory framework is not expected to have the restrictions on private accommodation operations such as requiring visitors to stay at least 6 nights (7 nights in Ota Ward), or the limitation that private accommodations be ‘in principle only for use by foreigners visiting Japan’.

That is, the new rules will likely be designed to allow Japanese nationals to use private accommodations without any limitation regarding how long they have to stay. So the above restrictions in the Ota Ward and Osaka ordinances may not be relevant in practice for very long.

Sumitomo Real Estate recently announced that in consideration of the new private accommodation rules, the company will designate certain new condominiums they market next year as not allowing private accommodations (i.e., condominiums where the Homeowners’ Association for the condominium has enacted bylaws which do not allow private accommodations.)

There are many Japanese who are reluctant to allow private accommodations in their building, due to the potential for excessive noise, safety issues, problems in sharing common areas, etc. In addition, the government is also working to institute legal rules which will cover websites which advertise and/or arrange private accommodation stays.

Source: Nikkei Shinbun, December 8, 2015

Photo: Traditional house in Shirakawa-go