Hot topic: Airbnb vs. Zweckentfremdungsverbot

“Tonight I’m sleeping in an RV parked illegally on the seafront,” an Australian newspaper editor told me over a drink in Sydney. “It’s covered in parking tickets. I’m writing an article about the weirdest places you can stay on Airbnb.”

Back in Brighton, and in need of a bed, I too found motorhomes parked in residential streets for rent through Airbnb, as well as a same-sex couple offering a room for travelers, including a meal home made and a massage to help you relax at bedtime.

I ended up opting for a hotel, but it is this social aspect – if not quite this level of privacy – that drives tourists to choose Airbnb, believing that staying in a real house or an unusual structure makes traveling more specials.

However, you do not have to live with a host. Many of us willingly pay a few extra pounds not to endure nerve-wracking banter with a stranger on the breakfast table (nor to have to explain that you will sleep great with a good book and a cup of Horlicks, thank you very much. ) and clicking on the Airbnb button to “rent an entire house / apartment”. But that’s where the problem lies: not all of these rentals are strictly legal.

While it’s obvious you shouldn’t be sleeping in a Bedford Rascal covered in parking fines, you might not realize that renting an apartment for a long weekend in Berlin could be a violation of the city’s Zweckentfremdung-sverbot law against abuse “), which entered into force this year.

Berliners are still allowed to rent their spare rooms, but they are prohibited from using Airbnb and its competitors to tout entire properties on short-term leases.

Although Airbnb claims to help Berliners pay rent in a city with rising house prices and below average wages, city officials insist apartments used as vacation rentals charge citizens out of their own neighborhoods.

Andreas Geisel, Head of Urban Development Berlin explains: “[Zweckentfremdungsverbot] is a necessary instrument against the housing shortage. I am determined to return the hijacked apartments to Berliners. “

Hannah Cadwallader, Head of European Communications at Airbnb, disagrees with this: “The current rules [regular Berliners] most difficult, slow down innovation and promote commercialization. “

It is not just the Germans who are rampant. As of 2011, New York City has banned residents from renting a property for less than 30 days unless the primary occupants are also present. It is a law targeting residential properties that have been turned into illegal hotels. Almost three-quarters of the city’s Airbnb ads between 2010 and 2014 were found to be illegal.

Meanwhile, authorities in Mýrdalshreppur, Iceland, have banned all short-term rentals, in response to a housing shortage in the picturesque village of Vík.

Vijay Dandapani, president of the Hotel Association of New York City and president of Apple Core Hotels, which has about 800 rooms in Midtown Manhattan, complains that the “shadow hotel industry” has driven down room rates hotel in the city, telling PBS: “These are rooms that should and should have been reserved for the hospitality industry, given what we have invested in the city and our buildings.”

Its arguments are similar to those of taxi companies attacking the car-sharing service, Uber. In either case, tourists are more likely to be concerned about the impact on their own pockets than the financial fortunes of private transport monopolies or hotel chains.

And while the majority may ignore the impact their choices have on local communities, with over 100 million guest arrivals from listings in over 34,000 cities, kicking Airbnb out of your city could turn out to be too. difficult than to ban the sharing of vacations ‘dog paws’ on Instagram.

Questions and answers

Are these laws not a little late?
As Airbnb’s Hannah Cadwallader says: “When we went from horse and cart to car, we needed new rules for new technology. The same is true today.” Indeed. Perhaps it is time for more governments to start working with host sharing sites to find solutions.

Is it wrong for me to rent my house?
Some insist that we have the right to do whatever we want with our own properties, while others say the lure of short-term second home rentals – which is often more profitable than get tenants – makes scammers and hoteliers black market from those who would otherwise be landlords.

Am I going to have trouble booking in a forbidden city?
While New York City politician and Assembly member Linda Rosenthal went so far as to personally organize a hidden camera stealth operation to expose illegal Airbnb hosting last year, no one seems want to sue the guests themselves.

Do I have to accept a massage from my host?
We recommend that you review it on a case-by-case basis.

Follow @JamesDraven

Published in the October 2016 issue of National Geographic Traveler (UK)

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