Airbnb faces new crackdown in Barcelona as city council asks residents to report illegal rentals • TechCrunch

Airbnb is facing new pressure on its business in Barcelona, ​​the Catalan capital popular with tourists, increasing tensions with local communities over rising rents and rowdy visitor behavior facilitated by the boom. sharing economy platforms.

The city has been trying to crack down on illegal tourist rentals for some time, with new mayor Ada Colau imposing a temporary cap on new registrations for rentals last year — a moratorium that was extended this summer. It is currently not possible to legally obtain a license for a new vacation rental in Barcelona.

But the council is now stepping up its enforcement activities, sending letters to residents asking them to report a property if they suspect it is being illegally let to tourists.

The municipal mailing, which started with residents of the barrios Eixample, Gracia and Sants-Montjuïc but will expand to the whole city by next month, follows an announcement last month by the council that he would step up his crackdown on illegal house rentals in the city.

At the start of the summer, the city government also chose to increase tenfold the maximum possible fine for apartments rented to tourists who are not on the Catalan Tourism Register (RTC), from €60,000 to €600,000. It uses a regional tourism law to try to control home-sharing activity in the city.

At the end of last year, the council fined Airbnb and another home-sharing platform, HomeAway, owned by Expedia€60,000 each for having announced accommodations not registered with the RTC, and for not having responded to requests for clarification on the accommodations advertised without an RTC number.

Earlier this month a study commissioned by the council suggested that around 40 per cent of tourist apartment supply in Barcelona is illegal. He also noted a sharp rise in rents (by 33%) in the city over the past three years – the highest rent inflation in Spain – which he blamed on holiday tourists limiting the supply of accommodation.

“Barcelona City Council is working to ensure that tourist activities are compatible with a sustainable urban model”, writes the city council in its letter to residents, adding that it wants to be a city “open to tourism, but with rules clear behavior”. .”

He goes on to say that he will intensify his activities in the fight against illegal tourist rentals and asks residents to help him identify illegal rentals by reporting any suspicious properties, either by calling a Freedom telephone number or by using a web form (available in Catalan, Spanish, English, French and German).

The website also allows residents to check whether an address is legally rented for tourism purposes or not.

It’s a similar move to Berlin’s city council, which encourages residents to file (anonymous) reports online if they suspect neighbors are operating illegal renters – though Berlin has taken an even tougher stance against Airbnb . An amendment to the City’s Housing Act of 2014, which came into effect this Can, prohibits the operation of short-term tourist rentals of entire apartments without a permit – allowing the Berlin government to shut down any new activity on the home-sharing platform. (Although renting private rooms in apartments is still permitted without a permit).

A quick search for a weekend rental for this month on Airbnb yields over 300 results for Barcelona (and for Paris), but far fewer for Berlin, with Airbnb noting that “only 11% of listings remain for those dates. for Berlin. So while the latter’s crackdown appears to be having a major impact on Airbnb’s inventory, Barcelona’s efforts to curb the illegal tourist rentals that have thrived on platforms such as Airbnb appear to have been quite ineffective so far. here.

The town hall of Paris has also published a plan of the legal tourist rentals in town for the purpose of combating illegal activities.

Last month, Barcelona City Hall ordered the removal of 256 apartments from colocation platforms like Airbnb, according to Reutersand said he was investigating more than 400 other potential offenders.

It remains to be seen whether a direct mail addressed to all inhabitants asking them to inform about neighbors using the platform illegally will make a large number of hosts think twice. (Or be more creative about how they use the platform – for example by offering 30 day contracts and cancellation after a few days once a tourist leaves).

In his recent studythe city council has estimated that Barcelona has 15,881 tourist apartments, of which 9,606 are licensed, meaning 6,275 are illegal.

In a Press release Today the council gave an update on its activities, saying it issued removal orders against 615 illegal flats in July and August, meaning a total of 1,290 cases were opened following the announced that it would intensify inspections this summer.

He added that a total of 960 complaints about illegal rentals had been received since the online complaints form was opened two months ago, although he said the total number of complaints and suggestions was still higher, at 1,123.

According to municipal datathe number of people using Airbnb in Barcelona tripled to 900,000 in the three years to 2015.

Responding to the council’s latest action, Airbnb, in a statement, accused the council of having a contradictory policy on tourism and called for “clear rules” to define “bad actors”.

It said:

Airbnb is part of the solution in Barcelona and it’s disappointing to see City Hall bullying residents with archaic rules that threaten an economic lifeline for thousands. There is a contradiction at the heart of tourism policies in Barcelona, which favor commercial operators and apartments intended solely for tourism in tourist hotspots. Home sharing puts money in residents’ pockets, uses space efficiently, and distributes guests and benefits to middle-class families and their communities. Barcelona needs clear rules that distinguish between home sharing and bad actors, like other major cities around the world.

For its part, Airbnb says it has around 21,000 active listings in Barcelona, ​​with the typical host in the city earning €5,100 a year, and the majority (73% of hosts) listing just one property – although it nearly a third of that remains. of Airbnb hosts in the city are renting multiple properties, suggesting that many residents are using the platform to act as professional landlords, rather than sharing their current home.

In its press release today, Barcelona City Hall warned that platforms that continue to advertise tourist rentals without RTC will be asked to collaborate with the administration and remove the advertisements. If they don’t, they risk being slapped with the new higher fine of up to €600,000.

In addition, tourist rentals that do not promptly respond to complaints from residents about their property’s activities also face disciplinary proceedings as part of the crackdown, including fines of up to €1,000. The council has set up a dedicated call center to handle these complaints.

The City Council confirmed to TechCrunch that it does not currently regulate tourist rentals where a person rents a room or rooms at the address where they also live. Its actions are targeted against the rental of entire apartments. However, a spokesperson noted that he is currently drafting new tourism regulations that will include room rentals and allow each municipality to regulate this type of rental in the future.

This post has been updated with additional details on the regulatory regime for tourist rentals of single rooms in Barcelona apartments

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