Airbnb said on Thursday it’s been forced to cancel thousands of bookings in Japan after the government unexpectedly announced the immediate implementation of a law that regulates home sharing.
The online chaos surrounding Airbnb’s most popular destination in the Asia-Pacific region comes as cities like New York and Paris seek to regulate the house-sharing service out of fears it’s jeopardizing the supply of affordable housing or being used for illegal activities.
“We know this stinks – and that’s an understatement,” the company said. It’s created a fund to cover customers’ costs of finding last-minute hotel reservations.
Japan last year made home-sharing legal, but it stipulated that hosts must register their home-share with the local authority and put their registration number on their listings by June 15. Airbnb said it had been helping hosts with this licensing process, but on June 1 the Japanese government suddenly announced that any host without a license would have to cancel bookings made before June 15.
Airbnb has canceled reservations with arrivals from June 15 to June 19 for any unlicensed listings, and going forward will cancel any reservations for which the host doesn’t have a license within 10 days of the booking.
This has thrown plans into disarray for hosts and travelers.
Along with requiring the licenses, localities can set their own restrictions, which have been criticized by some as too cumbersome. In Kyoto ― a tourist hotspot ― house-sharing in residential areas will only be allowed in the low season times of the year, from mid-January to mid-March. All hosts will only be allowed to rent their house out for 180 days a year.
The Japanese government has said that the regulations will protect locals and tourists and will “nurture healthy growth.” The country will have to deal with large numbers of visitors next year for the Rugby World Cup and the 2020 Summer Olympics.
The number of available Airbnb listings in Japan seems to have already plunged, perhaps due to hosts not wanting to go through the hassle of applying for paperwork.
HuffPost Japan reported that a government official in Minato Ward ― in central Tokyo, where there had been many listings ― said there had only been 40 requests for the license since June 5. Only five had been accepted, and the others were mainly rejected because they needed to notify their neighbors, or there was an issue with their fire equipment.