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New law to allow internet applications for renting out private housing

A new law expected to be implemented next year will allow internet applications for renting out tourist lodging at private residences, which could lead to a large jump in the number of such housings.

    An expert committee of the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare and the Japan Tourism Agency put together a report on June 20 calling for the creation of a new law to allow for-pay lodging of tourists at private residences. The national government is expected to aim to introduce the law during next year's ordinary Diet session.

    Following the passage of such a law, for-pay lodging at private residences will be allowed under three systems: the new law; the system for national strategy zones allowing such lodgings; and the Inns and Hotels Act.

    The committee report does not give a specific limit on the number of days a year a private residence should be allowed to offer lodging, but says "180 days or less." With the limit not yet decided, it is unclear how many people currently offering private residences for lodging illegally will apply for certification under the new system.

    In January this year private home lodgings began in Tokyo's Ota Ward, which is designated as a national strategy zone, and in April they began in in Osaka Prefecture, which has also been designated as such. Regulations under the Inns and Hotels Act were loosened in April to allow for-pay lodging at private residences across the country, but the legal hurdles are still tough, and because of this and other reasons the growth of such residences has been limited.

    Under the new law, it won't be necessary to receive government certification, with a house owner or manager instead needing to send a report online to their local municipal government. These house owners and managers will have to keep records of their guests, maintain signage showing that they offer lodging, and check that they do not violate their apartment rules if they are renting out an apartment. Punishments for failing to meet these requirements include losing their registration.

    Websites that offer listings of these kinds of private lodgings will have to register with the national government, and will be asked to delete listings for lodgings that have not been registered. Failure to comply could result in an order to the site to suspend operations or publication of the site's name as one not complying with the law.

    The real-estate industry, aiming for the effective use of unoccupied houses, is opposed to setting a limit on the number of days a home can be rented out, while the hotel and inn industries, seeing their business threatened, have called for a limit of 30 days or less. By not recommending a specific limit, the committee report effectively put off making a decision on this issue.

    The committee report also recommended allowing municipalities to set their own regulations on private residence lodging through passing ordinances.

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