Business

Japan eases rules a bit on 'minpaku' paid lodgings using homes

Kyodo

A revised government ordinance under the Inns and Hotels Law took effect Friday, making it easier for individuals to engage in lodging business for travelers in private homes.

Under the new government rules, individuals seeking to rent vacant homes or rooms will find it easier to obtain permission for the minpaku lodging service because they are no longer required to secure as much floor space for guests as before, or have to set up a reception desk if conditions are met.

The revision is aimed at making up for the shortage of hotels amid a surge in foreign travelers to the country in the leadup to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.

But critics say whether the move will bring in a large number of entrants remains to be seen because some restrictions, including areas allowed to provide the business, are retained. Concerns also linger that trouble could occur with neighboring residents, such as noise complaints and garbage problems.

With the number of foreign travelers sharply rising on the back of a weaker yen and other incentives, Japan has been seeing an increase in cases in which vacant private homes or rooms were rented out to tourists without receiving business licenses.

The government expects the latest regulatory reform will also help reduce the number of such unauthorized accommodations.

Now a business license is issued if 3.3 sq. meters of room space is secured for each guest when the number of people staying there is less than 10, compared with 33 sq. meters or more of total floor space for guests, and that there is a reception desk required under the previous ordinance.

A front desk is also no longer needed as long as the accommodation staff can check the identification of the guests and can deal with emergency situations by other means.

But some municipalities have their own ordinances that go against the eased government rules. For example, Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward urges minpaku facilities to have a front desk and has rules on the number of toilets and bathrooms.

The government has also not allowed the minpaku service to be offered in exclusive residential areas, a rule that is applied to hotels and other accommodations in principle.

Minpaku facilities also have to take certain fire-safety measures and secure evacuation routes.

The government, meanwhile, hopes to eventually ease rules for the “home-stay” type of minpaku accommodations, in which guests stay together with the home owner.