Berlin government legislates against Airbnb | Airbnb

Berlin has started restricting private property rentals by Airbnb and similar online platforms on Sunday, threatening heavy fines in a bid to keep housing affordable for locals.

Authorities in the German capital fear that the trend of people renting apartments to tourists through sites such as Airbnb, Wimdu and 9Flats could limit the supply of real estate and drive up rents.

A new law – Zweckentfremdungsverbot – has been described by Andreas Geisel, responsible for Berlin’s urban development, as “a necessary and sensible instrument against the housing shortage in Berlin… I am absolutely determined to return these hijacked apartments to Berliners and newcomers”.

Rents in Berlin rose by 56% between 2009 and 2014, but are low compared to other major European cities, at around €10 (£8) per square meter this year.

As Berlin has become one of Europe’s top tourist destinations, with 30.2 million overnight stays last year, the Airbnb trend has affected the local hospitality industry. According to the research company GBI, private online reservations represent a “parallel market of 6.1 million additional nights per year”.

The law was passed in 2014 but granted a two-year transition period that ended on Saturday, when landlords limited themselves to renting only rooms through these sites, not entire apartments or houses. Violators face fines of up to €100,000.

The city appealed to the “civic spirit” of residents, asking them to anonymously report suspected abuse online.

Tim Boening, 41, who rents a loft in trendy Kreuzberg, said he was not shocked by the law, given the practices he had seen. He quoted “the sweet couple with two small apartments who move into a bigger place together and keep the two apartments to rent out on Airbnb…I don’t think that’s right – it should be stopped.”

But a 48-year-old woman who did not want to be named said she was furious at the change, having rented four apartments near the city center through Airbnb. She claimed the city was making Berliners pay for its failed housing policy while meeting the needs of the hospitality industry.

She was particularly angry at the request to inform about offenders, saying that “in Germanyof all places, maybe we should reconsider this kind of thing.”

Airbnb Germany said: “Berliners want clear and simple rules for home sharing, so they can continue to share their own home with guests. We will continue to encourage policymakers in Berlin to listen to their citizens and follow the example of other big cities like Paris, London, Amsterdam or Hamburg and create new, clear rules for normal people who share their own accommodation.

Wimdu filed a lawsuit, arguing that the law violates Berlin’s constitution. The owners of 9Flats told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung daily: “We are facing a law in Berlin that would drive us into bankruptcy.”

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