Thinking of Staying in an Airbnb in Japan? What You Need to Know
As Japan continues to see a record number of tourists, the hunt for accommodations is tight. At the same time, Airbnb-style home rentals are growing increasingly popular. And with over 50,000 listings in Japan on Airbnb, why not? But, is this kind of accommodation even legal in Japan? And if so, what do you need to know before booking? Here is your guide to renting an Airbnb in Japan.
Is Airbnb legal in Japan?
For a long time, Airbnb-style short-term rentals were operating in a legal grey zone in Japan. Recently, in June 2017, the Japanese government passed a new law regarding private lodging (minpaku) services. The new law, which becomes effective in June 2018, states that people can rent out a property for a maximum of 180 days in a calendar year if registered with and approved by the local government. The new law comes after months of dispute and numerous complaints by local residents.
The problem with Airbnb in Japan
While Airbnb will become legal in Japan with this new law, it is not without issues. First, the property must be owned by the host. Most rental agreements in Japan explicitly forbid any type of subletting. And even places owned by the host may not be able to rent out to short-term guests. In light of complaints, many homeowner and condo associations have made rules against Airbnb and similar short-term renting. Additionally, certain neighborhoods have either banned or restricted this short-term private renting. Shinjuku and Setagaya, for example, have rules restricting Airbnb-style renting to weekends only, while Ota requires guests to book a minimum of seven nights.
As mentioned previously, the owner must register with and be approved by the local government as a minpaku (small private lodging). According to a 2016 survey by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry of Japan that looked at roughly 15,000 listings on sites listing minpaku information, only 17 percent obtained legal permission.
What does this mean for visitors?
Airbnb is legal on the national level, but may not be legal on the local level. Visitors should pay special attention to the area where they are considering staying. If something seems sketchy, then look into alternatives. Aspects that people love about Japan like cleanliness and safety are due in part to the fact that Japanese culture expects you to respect and follow the rules. You are missing the point if you have to break the law to “experience the real Japan.”
Tips on Searching for an Airbnb in Japan
Travelers should not have to look into the legality of an accommodation, and it’s unreasonable to expect anyone to call up the government office and ask for proof. So, here are some tips and advice on what to look out for when researching an Airbnb rental in Japan:
- Do a bit of research to see if the neighborhood allows rentals and their terms. Many areas do not permit minpaku in residential neighborhoods.
- Check whether the host is the owner of the apartment or property. Most rentals do not allow any type of subletting, so it may be an illegal accommodation if they are renting.
- Complaints can cause rentals to be shut down, so rules regarding sound and hygiene are reasonable. Telling people to avoid the neighbors at all costs is not. That might be a sign of an illegal accommodation.
- Ask the host if they are registered with local authorities. Under the new laws, all short-term rentals must have a license.
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