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Politics

Japan to clamp down on Airbnb hosts

Legislation would put a 180-day-a-year limit on home-sharing

These tourists from South Korea booked this flat in Osaka via Airbnb.

TOKYO -- Japan's tourism and labor ministries plan to cap the number of nights homeowners can rent out spare rooms or whole residences at 180 per year. The restriction on Airbnb-type hosts will be incorporated in new legislation meant to control the burgeoning home-sharing market.

The legislation will be submitted to next year's ordinary Diet session.

The ministries are trying to draw a line between minpaku, as home-sharing is called in Japan, and conventional types of tourist accommodations like hotels and Japanese-style ryokan, which have to adhere to strict regulations and tax codes.

While the government is gearing up to regulate the minpaku industry, it also wants home-sharers to supplement the country's lodging industry. Japan has a chronic shortage of hotel rooms -- a situation that is unlikely to improve with the surging numbers of tourists visiting the country.

The legislation will set basic rules for home-sharers, from the number of nights they are allowed to operate to the required procedures they must fulfill before hosting guests. It will call on home-sharers to submit written notification to their municipal ward office, and the website or other intermediary must register with the Japan Tourism Agency.

The country's hotel industry, fearful of losing customers, has been pressing for the minpaku ceiling to be set at no more than 30 nights a year. But property developers see Airbnb and similar sites with yen signs in their eyes, and have been insisting that no annual cap be set.

The tourism and labor ministries settled on 180 nights, rationalizing that any accommodation accepting guests more often than that can not be considered a private residence and would have to be subjected to the same regulations and taxes as hotels and other inns.

According to the tourism agency, other countries restrict the number of days home-sharers can operate. In the U.K., the cap is 90 days. In the Netherlands, it's 60 days.

(Nikkei)

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