European capitals permitted to rein in rentals during Covid-19 pandemic

Europe: European capitals will be permitted to carry out more rigorous vetting of short-term lets to combat a perceived shortage of long-term housing, according to a ruling by an advisor to Luxembourg’s Court of Justice of the European Union [CJEU].

Among the European tourist hotspots to have taken umbrage at Airbnb’s operations in their operations are Prague, Paris and Amsterdam.

CJEU advocate general Michal Bobek was recently faced with one such case where two Parisian apartment owners were fined by the city’s authorities for letting out their homes on Airbnb without permission, according to The New York Times.

Speaking ahead of the court ruling in the coming months, Bobek said the shortage of long-term available housing was a matter that required necessary vetting.

“A shortage of long-term housing constitutes an overriding reason of public interest capable of justifying a national measure, which requires authorisation to be obtained for the repeated letting of residential accommodation for short periods to a transit clientele,” he said.

Airbnb noted Bobek’s opinion, saying “the CJEU has already set out how Airbnb should be regulated in Europe”.

Pairs has a higher number of Airbnb listings than any other city in the world, with almost 60,000 of its properties displayed on the platform. The city allows homeowners to rent out their apartments on short-term rental platforms for up to 120 days a year.

Meanwhile in Prague, city officials are seeking to place tighter restrictions on rental platforms such as Airbnb, following the Czech parliament’s lower chamber’s passing of a new law which will give them greater authority to collect tax and other internal information on short-term lets.

The topic of short-term rentals in the Czech capital has been an intense source of debate in recent years, with locals saying they are increasingly being priced out of the city centre by properties being let out on Airbnb and other platforms to party-seeking revellers and tourists. The national parliament, however, has now intervened with the plan by using its state powers during a time of emergency.

Speaking to Reuters, Prague’s mayor Zdenek Hrib said: “This is a tool for the government to regulate Airbnb and short-term rental. We want to get more information from Airbnb owners about the capacity of their apartments, how they are being used and the fees they receive.”

Under the newly-implemented ruling, landlords in Prague will be required to disclose information to local authorities including the locations of their rentals, the frequency of their bookings, total payments received and the service used to connect the owner and client [i.e. the guest].

Prague has in recent years become a recognisably popular tourist destination and ranks highly for incoming tourists to capital cities in Europe. According to Euromonitor data, over nine million tourists visited Prague in 2019 and almost 12,000 properties were listed on Airbnb the year before that.

Hrib said that the current lockdown may prompt a new approach to how Prague will manage incoming tourism and short-term rental guests:

“If we have a chance to regulate Airbnb or similar platforms during the days when there are no tourists it would be beneficial. People would like to live in the city as permanent residents,” he added.