EU considers pan-European rental regulations

Belgium: The EU is consulting on regulating the short-term rental market across the bloc, with the option of a single set of pan-European rules being considered.

The Commission says it wants to support an expansion of competition and players in the sector but also respect EU law which allows for Member States to apply local rules based on concerns that are in the public interest.

The current situation is confused, with numerous different rules at national, regional and city level.

The diversion of local housing stock to STR inventory is the EU’s biggest concern. It is now canvassing views from the industry and interested citizens as it considers whether a sector-specific regulation is needed.

The Commission says its aim is “to develop responsible, fair and trusted growth in short-term rentals, as part of a well-balanced tourist ecosystem” — and “ensure a level playing field for all accommodation service providers and to respond to the many requests from interested parties for EU-wide action in this area”.

“This will involve offering balanced solutions for cities, peer and professional short-term rental providers and platforms, while benefiting in particular small and medium-sized firms,” it adds.

The Commission is facing pressure from cities across Europe affected by over tourism, which have been trying to impose limits on the growth of holiday rentals, with mixed success.

Earlier this year, a court in Amsterdam overturned a three-district ban on rentals on platforms such as Airbnb. But this summer city authorities in Paris won a legal case against Airbnb, which was ordered to pay $9.6 million for illegal listings.

Governments in Europe have also been pressing the Commission to regulate for data access to vacation rental platforms, with the Netherlands suggesting last year that it should embed such provisions in the DSA, according to a report on Phocuswire.

The European Parliament has also warned that the “expansive growth of short-term holiday rental in cities and popular tourist destinations is extracting housing from the market, driving up prices and has a negative impact on liveability”.

In a report last year MEPs said: “We want to give cities more control over short term accommodation platforms and ensure that these platforms share information with the cities, respecting data protection rules.”

In its consultation on the STR issue, the Commission notes that a number of authorities across the EU have taken steps to try to regulate short term rentals (STRs) — such as by imposing registration requirements and authorisation schemes on hosts, and by putting limits on the number of nights per year properties can be rented out.

“Whilst doing so, some national rules make a difference between so-called ‘peers’ offering STRs in a private capacity occasionally, and those offering STRs in a more professional capacity,” it says. “Criteria differ however and not everywhere a distinction is made between peers and professionals. Authorities have also taken a variety of measures to obtain better data from platforms, with a view to better assessing the volume of STRs and facilitating law enforcement. The foregoing has resulted in a patchwork of varying rules and regulations.”

“Under EU law, imposing restrictions and conditions on the provision of a service can be justified if necessary to pursue a legitimate public interest objective and proportionate to achieve that end. In spite of important clarifications offered by EU case law, there is still much uncertainty regarding the measures authorities may adopt and enforce as regards hosts and other service providers such as platforms,” the Commission adds.

“EU horizontal regulatory initiatives such as the Digital Services Act aim to impose harmonised obligations on online platforms, including collaborative economy platforms in the area of STRs. However, in order to foster a balanced development of the STR segment in the EU and to address the sector-specific aspects, a dedicated sector-specific initiative may be needed,” it concludes.