From January 29, Ota City in Tokyo will enact a new lodging ordinance to allow private residences and homes to be used as accommodation for tourists. The relaxed rules have shortened the minimum stay to 6 nights and 7 days (down from 30 days), and have reduced the need for hotel-like facilities such as a check-in counter. Hosts, however, must still be approved by Ota City before they can rent out their properties.
Over the past three months, Ota City has received over 120 inquiries from companies interested in applying for permission to operate lodgings under the newly relaxed rules, and is expecting to have applications for approximately 200 rooms by the end of March. At an information session held by the City on January 27th, 200 people showed up – twice the number expected by the City. One of the attendants was the president of a real estate company who was planning to lease between 50 ~ 100 rooms.
There are already over 300 rooms in Ota that are listed on online booking sites, the majority of which are operating without the legally required license.
Tomareru, a Tokyo-based company that operates the Stay Japan website (a Japanese booking site similar to Airbnb), is considering expanding their services in the Ota-ku area, and have already leased an entire apartment building, as well as a renovated single-story house near Kamata Station. They are hoping to lease out 100 rooms in Ota-ku.
On January 19, the Nikkei Shimbun reported that Daikyo Anabuki Real Estate plans to purchase approximately 100 vacant homes in Tokyo over the next 12 months, renovate them, and then offer them as short-term accommodation to domestic and foreign tourists. Their focus will be in Ota-ku, which offers convenient access from Haneda Airport. The company has already acquired a 4-Bedroom, 2-storey house located a 10 minute walk from Kamata Station. The 100 sqm (1,076 sq.ft) house could accommodate 4 or 5 guests. The house will be listed on Daikyo’s own hotel booking site Tabi-ie, which is currently only available in Japanese. Payment is by credit card only.
Also, by renovating the older houses, Daikyo is considering the possibility of re-selling them for a higher price somewhere down the track.
The rules were announced on January 25, 2016. Operators wishing to be approved by Ota City must submit a fairly comprehensive set of documents, along with a processing fee. Some of the rules include:
- Minimum stays of 6 nights and 7 days.
- Written notice must be provided to all neighbours and businesses within a 20 meter radius of the property.
- If the property is a unit in a building, written approval from the building’s owners association must be obtained.
- Ota City has the right to inspect properties.
- Rooms must be cleaned before each guest checks in.
- Minimum room size is 25 sqm (269 sq.ft).
- Room must have a lockable door and windows.
- Room must have its own kitchen and bathroom.
- Room must have heating and air-conditioning.
- The operator must keep a register of all guests (the register must be stored for at least three years), must keep a copy of guests’ passports as well as confirm their identity in person.
- The property must be located in a zone that allows hotels/ryokans.
Although the new rules were created with the goal of minimising disturbance to neighbours, some experts have pointed out that there is still a chance of troubles arising.
Problems have already started to arise with the frequent checking in and out by guests at all hours causing additional noise to neighbours, and garbage piling up outside rooms. Ota City officials were concerned about the growing number of unlicensed hosts, and decided to create specific rules for operators to abide by in order to alleviate some of the complaints.
Opposition in apartment buildings
There is also growing opposition from the owners associations of condominiums, and many associations are starting to add clauses to building bylaws that prohibit any type of short-term rentals to hotel guests. Developers, too, are under pressure to ensure that buyers or existing apartment owners do not start letting out their units to tourists. Such activity in a building can disturb neighbours, create security, hygiene and noise concerns, and can erode property values.
Tokyu Community, a management company that is part of the Tokyu group, has recently started offering a service to help owners associations change their bylaws, while Nomura Real Estate is working on a manual for owners to help deal with problems caused by hotel letting. One high-rise condominium in the bayside area has banned Airbnb-type letting due to a rise in complaints, while Sumitomo is also adding clauses to the management bylaws for their new condominiums.
The Tokyo Shimbun, January 26, 2016.
The Nikkei Shimbun, January 19, 2016.
The Yomiuri Shimbun, January 28, 2016.
YTV, January 25, 2016.
Ota City Homepage.