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Business ministers are set to approve new EU rental legislation on Thursday [Unsplash]

EU rental legislation set to be approved by ministers on 2 March

Europe: EU business ministers are set to approve new rules for short-term rental booking platforms across the European Union, including Airbnb, Booking.com, Expedia Group and TripAdvisor, when they convene on Thursday [2 March].

It follows the news in November that European Commission had adopted a proposal for regulation that is designed to “enhance transparency” and “help public authorities ensure the balanced development” of a sustainable tourism and short-term rental sector across the 27 EU member states.

The proposed rules are being introduced to improve the collection and sharing of data from short-term rental accommodation hosts and online booking platforms. This includes enhancing the transparency around the identification and activity of hosts, and around the rules they have to comply with, which will ultimately facilitate the registration of hosts.

In addition, the European Commission aims to tackle illegal listings and the fragmentation in how online platforms share data. This will thereby contribute to a more sustainable tourism ecosystem and inform “effective and proportionate” local policies to address the challenges and opportunities related to the short-term rental sector, according to the Commission.

November’s announcement was long anticipated, coming nearly a year after reports emerged that it was consulting on regulating the short-term rental market across the bloc, with a single set of pan-European rules among the options being considered. A public consultation period on short-term rental accommodation services closed in December 2021.

Documents seen by pan-European news website Euractiv clarify that the European Commission views ‘short-term rentals’ as concerning rooms in a host’s residence, which can include entire dwellings on both land and water, and are therefore affected by the incoming regulations.

The incoming regulations look set to include:

‘Multi-listing’ and registration process

Public authorities in EU countries will be able to issue a unique identifier for each accommodation that is rented out, which will enable tracking across multiple platforms – a phenomenon called ‘multi-listing’. Each public authority will have the power to request that hosts provide supporting documentation in line with EU law, including the necessary authorisation, but the authority will also have the power to request registration numbers if the information provided is dubious. Listings unable to provide adequate information may then be removed from the online platforms themselves.

The wording and availability of rental information

In the event of any disputes over the authorisation scheme, hosts will likely have more access to information, such as potential redress mechanisms that better protect their rights.

At the same time, all EU member states will be obliged to lay out the relevant information for the provision of short-term rental services in their respective national territories. This would include the requirements of the registration procedure and the conditions for accessing or listing short-term rental accommodations.

Single digital entry points

A Digital Services Act [DSA], which will require tech platforms to root out illegal and harmful content, has just been enacted into EU law to update the Electronic Commerce Directive 2000. While the DSA will apply in all EU member states from 17 February 2024, online platforms must now comply with the law [from 17 February 2023] and larger online platforms look set to follow suit in four months’ time.

This is relevant to the short-term rental sector since a core principle of the DSA is that economic operators should not be expected to monitor all content on their platforms.

According to an EU compromise text, short-term rental platforms “should only be required to make reasonable efforts to carry out random checks through the use of functionalities offered by the single digital entry point”.

As such, these single digital entry points will be compulsory in all EU countries as freely accessible, national, centralised systems that enable platforms to conduct random checks of hosts’ registration numbers. Each national entry point will have its own representative that forms part of a wider EU coordination group, which will be set up to exchange best practices, promote inter-operability and standard formats, and conduct automated checks on listings and registration numbers.

The move is intended to allow booking platforms to introduce automated verification on their EU listings voluntarily.

Rental activity data

‘Competent authorities’

As redefined by the EU, ‘competent authorities’ refer to authorities that are responsible for enforcing registration schemes, collecting short-term rental data, and ensuring the rules are being effectively applied in each country.

Public authorities tasked with monitoring compliance and enforcing the laws will have access to rental information obtained by the booking platforms. These public authorities include policymakers, researchers and innovators, though in the majority of cases, they will not be able to identify individual accommodation listings nor access personal host information.

 

STRz will update this story when more information is made available after the business minister meeting on 2 March.

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