Business

Airbnb ‘still removing’ unregistered lodgings in Japan a week after new P2P rental law came into force

Kyodo

Airbnb Inc. said Thursday that it is still removing “thousands” of listings from its website for unlicensed private lodgings in Japan, as required under a new law that took effect last week to cope with a sharp increase in foreign visitors and a consequent shortage of hotel rooms.

The world’s leading home-share operator said it has continued to delete unregistered lodgings after the government found illegal properties remain listed on the Airbnb website.

“If (the government) makes us aware of any listings with inaccurate registration details, we will remove them immediately,” Airbnb said in a statement. “We are also working hard to remove listings that do not appear to have a legitimate registration number.”

Before the new law went into effect last Friday, the company said it had deleted thousands of previously listed lodgings that did not have permission to operate.

According to AirbDatabank, an online service monitoring the Japanese private lodging market, the number of Japanese listings on Airbnb decreased drastically from some 55,000 as of the end of May to 13,000 shortly before the law took effect.

On Thursday, the Japan Tourism Agency said it had received a report from the city of Kyoto — one of the most popular tourist destinations in Japan — that at least 40 lodgings there listed on Airbnb on Friday had failed to register with the local government as required under the law.

Another nine municipalities have also found apparently unlicensed private lodgings still listed on the U.S. firm’s website after the law took effect, prompting the governmental agency to ask the company to look into the matter.

“We can’t deny some cases of typing or computer system errors (being responsible for the errant registrations), but it is also possible that some home renters used false registration numbers to apply for (Airbnb) listing,” a tourism agency official said.

The new law authorizes private homes to be offered as accommodation to tourists only if the owners submit the necessary paperwork to prefectural governments or to authorities in designated major cities such as Kyoto.

Airbnb has been on alert against properties being improperly registered on its computer system. Home owners receive registration numbers consisting of the letter “M” and a nine-digit figure after their applications are accepted.

The firm welcomed the introduction of the new law in Japan in a recent interview.

“Over the last several years, our hosts have had to operate in a gray area and now there are clear rules. We think (the new legislation) would actually empower many people to host,” Nathan Blecharczyk, co-founder and chief strategy officer of the U.S. home-rental service giant, said in the interview.

The tourism agency said it had required all home-share operators in the country to report registration numbers on their websites by June 29.

Airbnb will pay compensation to those affected by deletions, a company spokesman said.