The term “Special Zoned Minpaku” (特区民泊) refers to private accommodations utilizing the special exception system of the Ryokan Business Law based on the National Strategic Special Zone Law. The official name of “Special Zoned Minpaku” is “National Strategic Special Zone Foreign Residential Facilities Management Business,” but it is called “Tokku Minpaku” (特区民泊) as a private accommodation business in a special zone (特別). Although the “Toku-ku Minpaku” is only available in some of the National Strategic Special Zones, it is attracting attention as a legitimate way to operate a private home-stay business. Here is a detailed overview of the “special zoned homestay business.”
What is the National Special Strategic Zone?
National Strategic Special Zones are special economic zones defined by the Abe Cabinet as one of the pillars of Japan’s growth strategy, with the aim of promoting regional development and enhancing international competitiveness. National Strategic Special Zones are sometimes abbreviated as “National Strategic Special Zones.
As of September 2017, the following areas have been designated as National Strategic Special Zones.
List of National Strategic Special Zones
Tokyo area (Tokyo, Kanagawa, Narita, Chiba), Kansai area (Osaka, Hyogo, Kyoto), Niigata, Yabu, Hyogo, Fukuoka, Fukuoka, Kitakyushu, Okinawa, Senboku, Akita, Sendai, Miyagi, Aichi, Hiroshima, Imabari, Ehime
In these National Strategic Special Zones, the Prime Minister and prefectural governors have granted approval for the “National Strategic Special Zone Foreign Residential Facility Management Business,” which means that the provisions of the Ryokan Business Law do not apply to this business. In other words, municipalities designated as National Strategic Special Zones are able to conduct “special zoned overnight stays” by establishing their own ordinances. It should be noted that not all of the National Strategic Zones can offer “private accommodations in special zones,” but only those municipalities that have established their own ordinances.
What is the National Strategic Special Zone Foreign Residential Facility Management Project?
What exactly does the “National Strategic Special Zone Foreign Residential Facility Management Business,” the official name of the “special zoned minpaku,” refer to? Under current Japanese law, the Ryokan Business Law applies in principle to facilities where guests stay for less than one month, and various obligations are imposed, including the establishment of a front desk, the obligation to prepare a guest list, hygiene management, and on-site inspections by the public health department. However, Article 13 of the National Strategic Special Zone Law stipulates the following;
When the Council for National Strategic Special Zones has received approval from the Prime Minister for the zoned plan which specifies a specific business under the National Strategic Special Zone Act, on and after the date of said approval, any person who intends to conduct a specific business under the National Strategic Special Zone Act shall obtain specific approval for said business from the prefectural governor and the provisions of the Ryokan Business Act shall not apply to that business. The provisions of the Ryokan Business Law do not apply.
Specifically, the Ryokan Business Law does not apply to “businesses that meet the requirements specified by Cabinet Order as businesses which provide services necessary for the stay of foreign passengers in National Strategic Special Zones by allowing them to use facilities suitable for their stay for a period (3 to 10 days) or longer specified by ordinance based on lease contracts. Although the business is named “business of managing accommodation facilities for foreigners in the National Strategic Special Zone,” in reality, it does not matter whether the guests are Japanese or non-Japanese.
What exactly are the “requirements specified by government ordinance as a business that provides services necessary for a stay”? The following is an explanation of the requirements for certification as a “special zoned overnight stay business.”
Certification Requirements for Certification of Private
Accommodations in Special Zones
The main requirements to be certified as a private residence in a special zone include the following:
- The location of the accommodation facility is within the National Strategic Special Zone
- The duration of stay at the accommodation is more than the period set by the municipality within the range of (2 nights) 3 days to (9 nights) 10 days
- The floor area of one room must be 25 m2 or more. (However, this can be changed at the discretion of the local government.)
- Providing foreign-language information on how to use the facility, providing information in foreign languages in case of emergency, and other services necessary for the stay of foreign passengers.
- Provide a list of visitors to the facility.
- Provide appropriate explanations to residents in the area surrounding the facility
- Appropriate and prompt response to complaints and inquiries from local residents in the vicinity of the facility
On October 31, 2016, the amendment to the Enforcement Order and Enforcement Regulations of the National Strategic Special Zone Law came into effect, relaxing the previously established period of stay from (6 nights) 7 days to (9 nights) 10 days to (2 nights ) 3 days to (9 nights) 10 days, taking into account the realistic demands of those staying in the area. On the other hand, new requirements such as coordination with neighbors and keeping a guest list have been added.
In addition to the above, various other detailed requirements such as sanitation and firefighting equipment must be met.
If a condominium building under condominium unit ownership is to be certified as a “private accommodation in a special zone,” it is subject to certification if the management rules (HOA guidelines) clearly stipulate that the condominium unit owners “may” use their exclusive areas for private accommodations in a special zone. On the other hand, if there is an explicit provision to the effect that such use is “prohibited,” the property is not subject to certification as a special zone. In addition, if the management rules remain the same as the standard management rules, and there is a provision that “Unit owners shall use their exclusive areas exclusively as residences and shall not use them for any other purpose,” the property is not subject to special zone certification. In addition, if the standard management rules still stipulate that “the unit owners shall use their exclusive areas exclusively as residences and shall not use them for any other purpose,” they are subject to the specific certification, unless the management association has already passed a resolution to prohibit private accommodations in special zones. This is because the system of “private overnight stays in special zones” itself is based on the premise that the facility is originally intended to be used as a residence.
Advantages and Disadvantages of the Special Zone Residential Accommodations
What are the advantages and disadvantages of the “Special Zoned Minpaku” compared to other methods of operating a homestay business? Here is a simple comparison with the Ryokan Business Law (simplified lodging) and the Residential Accommodation Business Law (new law for minshaku).
Comparison to Simple Lodgings under the Ryokan Business Law
One of the advantages of the “special zoned minpaku” compared to thesimple lodging is that Ryokan Busines Law, it requires less time and cost for the certification process. On the other hand, if you obtain a license for a simple lodging facility under the Ryokan Business Law, you can accept a stay of one night and two days, but the minimum stay for a private lodging facility in a special zone is two nights and three days, making it difficult to meet the needs of short-term guests, such as business travelers.
Comparison with the Residential Accommodation Business Law (New Minpaku Law)
One of the advantages of the “Special Zoned Minpaku” compared to the Residential Accommodation Business Law is that there is no limit to the number of operating days per year, therefore accommodations can be operated throughout the year. On the other hand, in the case of the Residential Accommodation Business Law, the notification system and procedures are simple, and private accommodations can be operated anywhere in Japan, but the disadvantages of the special zone private accommodations are that operations are limited to the “strategic special zones”, and the procedures and costs required for certification.
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