Prague aims to bring Airbnb under control with coronavirus crisis laws

PRAGUE (Reuters) – Officials in Prague are using the coronavirus crisis to better curb short-term rentals like Airbnb, which they say have evicted residents from the center of the Czech capital.

Using the state of emergency powers in place during the coronavirus pandemic, the Czech lower house of parliament has accelerated a plan to allow local authorities to better collect taxes and other information on short-term rentals.

Tourists thronging Prague’s cobbled streets and historic squares, often to enjoy its cheap beer and late-night parties, have put pressure on local services.

“This is a tool for the government to regulate Airbnb and short-term rental,” Prague mayor Zdenek Hrib told Reuters after the lower house approved the measure on Wednesday.

“We want to get more information from Airbnb owners about the capacity of their apartments, how they are used and the fees they charge,” Hrib added.

Landlords will now need to provide information about the location of a rented property through platforms like Airbnb, how often an apartment has been rented, the total payment received, and identify the online service used to connect the landlord with the customer. .

Just over 9 million tourists visited Prague, which has a population of 1.3 million, in 2019, making it one of the most popular destinations in Europe behind London, Paris and Rome, according to data from Euromonitor.

One of the most acute issues for Prague residents is the lack of affordable housing, as many landlords have converted their properties into short-term rentals serving tourists.

Airbnb listed nearly 12,000 properties in Prague in 2018, according to the Prague Development Institute.

The district encompassing downtown Prague has lost many of its inhabitants as tourism has grown, with a total of 21,556 registered voters in 2017, up from 36,862 in 1990.

With short-term rentals now vacant after the Czech Republic closed its borders to curb the coronavirus outbreak, Hrib said the city now has time to rethink its approach to tourism.

“If we have the option to regulate Airbnb or similar platforms during the days when there are no tourists, that would be beneficial. People would like to live in the city as permanent residents, ”Hrib said.

(This story corrects to remove the superfluous word, paragraph 10.)

Reporting by Michael Kahn and Robert Muller, editing by Alexander Smith

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