I thank the Vice Chairman and members of the committee for affording me the opportunity to present the proposed Planning and Development Act 2000 (Exempted Development) (No. 2) Regulations 2019. As I outlined at previous meetings of the committee, the regulations will provide planning exemptions for limited short-term lettings further to the primary legislative amendments introduced in section 38 of the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act 2019, which was recently passed by both Houses of the Oireachtas and subsequently signed into law by the President last Friday. Under the procedural requirements of the Planning and Development Act, both Houses of the Oireachtas are required to approve draft planning regulations relating to exempted development by way of positive resolution before they can be signed into law by the Minister. The consideration of the draft regulations by the committee today is part of that statutory procedural approval process, although we have already discussed the proposals at length.
These regulations supplement the provisions introduced regarding short-term letting in the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act 2019. The regulations provide for the definition of "short-term letting" as the letting of a house or apartment, or part of a house or apartment, for periods not exceeding 14 days, and that the use of a house or apartment for any short-term letting, as defined, in a rent pressure zone will be classified as a material change of use of the structure for planning permission purposes. Supplementary to the primary legislative provisions in the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act, the draft regulations provide for certain specific exemptions from planning permission. Home-sharing, that is, the letting of a room or rooms in a person's principal private residence, will continue to be allowed on an unrestricted basis and without the need for planning permission. Home-sharers will also be allowed to sublet their entire principal private residence, be it a house or apartment, for short-term letting for a cumulative period of up to 90 days annually where they are temporarily absent from their home, again without being required to obtain planning permission. Where the 90-day threshold is exceeded, the planning exemption provided for in the regulations will no longer apply and change of use planning permission will be required.
However, the main change in the new arrangements provided for the Act and the draft regulations, is where a person owns a property in a rent pressure zone which is not his or her principal private residence and intends to let it for short term-letting purposes, he or she will be required to apply for change of use planning permission unless the property has a specific permission to be used for tourism or short-term letting purposes. It will be up to the local planning authority to make a determination on such planning applications and, as I have outlined to the committee, it would be highly unlikely that planning permission would be granted for such short-term lettings in rent pressure zones except in limited and specified circumstances which will be outlined in advisory guidelines to be issued to planning authorities.
The regulations also provide for specific reporting obligations on persons engaged in home-sharing and short-term letting. In the first instance, a person engaging in home-sharing in his or her principal private residence will need to register it with his or her planning authority. Furthermore, persons engaged in home-sharing of their entire home, that is, their principal private residence, be it a house or apartment, will need to notify their planning authority of the period or periods for which they intend to use their home for home-sharing, when they have reached the 90-day threshold for home-sharing in a principal private residence, and confirm all the details of home-sharing undertaken at the end of each year.
While the draft regulations presented here differ slightly from previous drafts discussed by the committee, there has been no major change to the substance of the proposed provisions. The changes made are primarily structural or presentational in nature from a legal drafting perspective. Two additional changes have been made since the previous draft was presented to the committee with a view to strengthening and tightening up the enforceability of the provisions. First, a statutory declaration provision was inserted requiring persons engaging in home-sharing in their principal private residence to make a statutory declaration that the reporting and notification information being submitted to their planning authority is true and correct. Second, a fairly broad provision has been inserted empowering planning authorities to request such other information as they may reasonably require for the purposes of establishing that the information submitted in the reporting forms specified in the regulations is true and correct.
These provisions are aimed at ensuring that persons engaging in short-term letting of a second property, that is, a property which is not their principal private residence, do not make a false declaration that the property in question is their principal private residence for the purpose of trying to avail of the planning exemptions in respect of such second property. Where a person makes a false declaration for the purposes of the reporting obligations and to circumvent the short-term letting provisions in these regulations, it will be an offence prosecutable under both the Statutory Declarations Act in addition to an offence under the Planning and Development Act. The regulations do not place any reporting requirements on persons letting out a room or rooms in a house or apartment that is not their principal private residence on the basis that such persons are not entitled to avail of the planning exemptions provided for in these regulations. Instead, in a rent pressure zone, it will be a clear requirement that such persons are obliged to apply for change of use planning permission and, as indicated, it will be up to planning authorities to determine such planning applications.
As outlined at previous briefings with the committee, the new legislative changes will not affect homes, apartments or larger housing developments which have a specific grant of planning permission for use as holiday accommodation and short-term letting. The new provisions will also not affect normal house or apartment letting for periods in excess of 14 days, such as executive lettings or lettings under the rent-a-room scheme. In addition, the new legislative arrangements will only apply to short-term lettings in rent pressure zones as designated under section 24A of the Residential Tenancies Act 2004, as amended, which are the areas of the highest housing demand, and will not impact in any way on short-term lettings outside of rent pressure zones where housing pressures and demand are less acute.
I commend the regulations to the committee. They are essential to support and underpin the recently enacted primary legislative amendments aimed at regulating short-term lettings as incorporated in the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act 2019. As I outlined previously, the primary objective of these new legislative reforms is to encourage the bringing back of houses and apartments in rent pressure zones which are being used for short-term letting purposes to the traditional long-term rental market, thereby helping to ease the accommodation shortage pressures currently being experienced in this area. I thank members for their positive engagement in the consideration and development of these short-term letting legislative proposals, which I am hopeful will have the desired effect. We have circulated copies of additional documentation, as I committed to do at the previous meeting, including a draft of the advertisement that will go into all the national and local newspapers, a draft web page for inclusion on the website, and a draft frequently asked questions document that will likewise be published on the website and which may be helpful to Oireachtas Members in contacting and liaising with constituents. In addition, there is an outline of the initial guidance that will go to planning authorities on the change of use provisions and those limited specific circumstances that will be taken into account where permissions are sought in rent pressure zones. That guidance will issue to planning authorities on Tuesday of next week. If, subsequent to this meeting, the regulations are approved by positive resolution of both Houses of the Oireachtas, they will come into force on 1 July 2019, which is concurrent with the commencement of the primary legislative amendments in section 38 of the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act 2019. As such, it is my intention to sign the regulations into law at the earliest possible date.