Paris leads efforts to kill Airbnb – POLITICO

PARIS – French lawmakers are clearing Airbnb’s air.

Paris authorities are announcing record fines for serial tenants using the service as lawmakers as the passage of a new law approaches that would make the US company liable for thousands of unregistered listings on its site. The stakes are high: France is the most visited country in the world and Paris is would have The world’s largest urban Airbnb marketplace.

Last week, Ian Brossat, head of housing at Paris City Hall, said fines this year for illegal online rentals have already reached 1.38 million euros, exceeding the total for all of 2017. Brossat told POLITICO that such rentals decrease the number of homes in the city. stock, drive up rents and can turn residential neighborhoods into tourist traps.

The crackdown in Paris coincides with broader efforts to curb unregulated peer-to-peer rental on one of the sharing economy’s star platforms. Barcelona built a 100-man enforcement team to track down unregistered Airbnb hosts, and fined the site itself € 600,000 last year. Berlin, which virtually banned the service in 2016, reopened its market in March with an annual cap of 90 days on short-term rentals.

The ELAN bill would introduce fines for platforms that do not remove unregistered ads from their site.

In New York, officials approved On August 6, disclosure requirements for Airbnb strengthen its enforcement of a state law that bans rentals under 30 days, prompting the site to sue the city on Friday. Registration requirements introduced in San Francisco this year would have fallen the number of registrations almost half.

Still, the Paris actions could touch a particular nerve for Airbnb. His spokesperson Aurélien Perol Recount Global News in April: “We remain disappointed that we are not able to work with municipal authorities as effectively as we are in other major European cities, notably Berlin, Barcelona and London”.

Regulation tug of war

The problem for Airbnb comes from French rules that prohibit residents from subletting their property for more than 120 nights a year and requires them to obtain written consent from owners. To strengthen the application of these rules, the town hall adopted in October 2016 a measure requiring Airbnb tenants to obtain a “registration number” for each property listed. The deadline for compliance was December 1, 2017.

But as of mid-January 2018, around 80% of the platform’s listings had not done so, according to a study by Le Figaro. Increasingly frustrated by the continued presence of unregistered ads on Airbnb, the town hall filed a complaint in April against the platform and its German rival Wimdu.

“We must make the platforms responsible”, noted Brossat at the time, claiming that 84% of Airbnb’s ads were legally invalid. “Airbnb today agrees to break the law,” he added.

Paris Fines This Year For Illegal Online Rentals Have Already Reached 1.38 Million | Toshifumi Kitamura / AFP via Getty Images

The Paris official, who also tops the list of French Communist candidates for the 2019 European elections, struck a similar tone this week by revealing the record number of fines for 2018.

“Today, we punish the owners, but we do not touch Airbnb, which nevertheless makes money on these illegal ads. That will change,” he said. declared Wednesday at FranceInfo.

Airbnb representatives said the company was in favor of the regulation, calling the 120-night threshold a “sane rule.” But they said banning unregistered listings is a “disproportionate” response that would hurt occasional tenants. “This broken registration system will only preserve the interests of hotel lobbyists while failing to address local housing concerns,” a company spokesperson said.

Airbnb should face more severe measures due to the ELAN (Evolution of Housing, Development and Internet) bill, already adopted by the French Senate. Currently under review by a House and Senate committee, the bill would introduce fines for platforms that do not remove unregistered ads from their site.

The Vacation Rental Promotion Union, an industry group for Airbnb and similar services, is opposing the law. Sources familiar with the platforms strategy said it would create a “damn if you do, damn if you don’t” scenario: either incur massive fines or sacrifice the majority of ads.

These sources added that many casual tenants – the Town Hall guy says he’s okay with – are unlikely to go through an onerous registration process since they only sublet a few nights a year. Additionally, they said tenants were likely to be stunned by check-in rules which vary from city to city, or scared off by the prospect of fines of up to a thousand euros.

Brossat disagreed. “Someone who is able to place an ad on Airbnb is quite capable of retrieving their registration number,” he said, promising the process would only take three minutes.

The platforms are now trying to get ahead of the ELAN law, saying they will automatically remove properties from their site once they have been rented for 120 nights within a year.

Airbnb also said it has started collecting tourist taxes automatically this year for 23,000 French cities.

For Brossat and the town hall, such self-regulation is too little, too late.

“The platforms should have done it already in 2016,” said Brossat. “As the platforms do not give us any transparency on their data, we must have the means to verify that they are effectively removing these lists. “

This story has been updated with comments from Airbnb.

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