- Currently, any leases for less than 30 days require a license.
- Failure to meet licensing requirements could result in a jail or a fine, depending on the type and severity of the violation.
- Most homes and apartments do not qualify under current licensing regulations.
Recently, the Japanese government has been considering deregulating the hotel and short-term letting industry to provide more accommodation options for foreign tourists in the lead-up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. With the latest data putting Japan’s residential vacancy rate at 13.5%, this reform has been touted as a way to help fill up some of Japan’s 8 million empty homes, of which half are rentals.
AirBnb is already quite popular in Japan with listings ranging from traditional farmhouses in the countryside to contemporary apartments in downtown Tokyo. A large majority of these listings, however, are unlicensed and would not qualify under current licensing requirements.
Under the Hotel Business Law, however, approval from the prefectural governor is required before you can lease out a residential property for less than 30 days. Failure to obtain proper permission can result in arrest and fines. In the past two years, two foreigners have been arrested for operating illegal hotels in Osaka and Tokyo.
The proposed revision that is still under discussion would reduce the minimum stay to 7 ~ 10 days. Properties must still meet certain requirements, such as being in the correctly zoned location, having a building certificate, having a minimum floor area of 25 sqm, have lockable windows and doors, proper walls between rooms, adequate fire escapes, information provided in several languages, meet hygiene requirements and meet construction and fire codes. Renting out a room on a nightly basis would still require the landlord to meet additional requirements including having a front desk and obtaining a license to operate.
In 2017, a major revision is set to be introduced that would limit the maximum number of days that a property can be rented on a short-term basis to just 180 days per year. Local governments may have the authority to reduce this limit to an even lower number. Penalties are also expected to increase to up to 1 million Yen for people found to be illegally letting their property.