As the EU prepares a European regulation aimed at establishing a legal framework for tourist accommodation despite limited data available for the sector, EURACTIV examines the implications of these new measures for municipal officials and tenants.
In Europe, the relationship between local regulators and short-term rental hosts hasn’t always been easy.
On the one hand, cities have long feared that prices will rise as the number of short-term rentals increases, ultimately depriving the market of available homes. On the other hand, travel booking platforms and hosts complain that the rules are locally fragmented and therefore difficult to navigate.
On November 7, the European Commission presented new rules to define harmonized data sharing conditions and registration obligations for accommodation hosts. However, little information has been provided on who will be affected by the new regulation.
Specific rules for each city
“Cities have struggled to cope with the huge growth in short-term rentals[dans l’UE]”Federica Bordelot, policy advisor to Eurocities, a network of more than 200 cities in 38 countries, told EURACTIV.
“Tourism is an important source of income and employment. However, it is important to ensure sustainable housing and the protection of quality of life in urban centres”added Madame Bordelot.
The European Commission estimates that around 25% of all accommodation establishments in the EU are short-term rental, an increase of 138% in the first half of 2022.
Cities have so far taken matters into their own hands to curb this growth, often through registration schemes and clear restrictions on the length and nature of the lease.
Thus, Amsterdam has made a clear distinction between bed and breakfast type rentals, in which no more than 40% of the entire accommodation can be rented, and full accommodation rental, which cannot exceed 30 days per year and requires mandatory registration with municipal services.
In Barcelona, short-term “tourist families” must be registered for a maximum of 31 days a year and obtain an official licence.
The Spanish city has also banned the rental of private rooms, a first in the EU: “It is such a difficult market to regulate that we have to stop now[la location de chambres privées]”I had trust Janet Sanz, deputy mayor of the city, a New York Times Last year.
Disproportionate and restrictive regulation
Existing regulations are criticized by host associations for their lack of harmonization and, more often than not, for being too restrictive.
“The absence (or low level) of understanding of the short-term rental ecosystem leads to harsher, unjustified, disproportionate and discriminatory rules”said Viktorija Molnar, general secretary of the sectoral organisation European Association for Holiday Homes (EHHA). He further stressed that these measures were imposed despite the positive impacts on the local economy.
This opinion is shared by Maarten Bruinsma, owner of bed and breakfasts in Amsterdam and president of the short-term rental hoteliers association Amsterdam Gastvrywho told EURACTIV that the measures taken by the city had become “disproportionate”.
In a letter sent to European Commissioner for the Internal Market Thierry Breton, Bruinsma said that the professional hospitality sector, with the exception of peer-to-peer accommodation, is responsible for 90% of the 20 million overnight stays in Amsterdam tourist attractions in the 2019.
The letter also reads that the current city administration has found a scapegoat in the sector of short-term rentals between private individuals to meet the social needs of conservation of urban centers.
No rules, no data
In its action plan last year, Airbnb estimated that of the 1.34 million Airbnb hosts in the European Union, 1 million rent only a home, making for a more authentic experience than it would be with hotels and professionals.
On the contrary, in a letter from the European Cities Alliance to Mr. Breton and European Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, the mayors of municipalities such as Amsterdam and Barcelona have argued that true peer-to-peer rental has become marginal because companies with large portfolios own the majority of ads.
It’s a practice “unacceptable”, Ian Brossat, deputy mayor of Paris responsible for the case, told EURACTIV, adding that 40% of all prosecutions against short-term rental practices in Paris in 2021 were aimed at professionals or “multi-host”.
Travel platforms claim that “amateur” guests are still the majority, while cities believe that most of the offer on the market comes from professionals with many advertisements, but an objective assessment of market trends remains difficult.
“We just don’t have the data”recognizes Ms. Bordelot of Eurocities.
“Since hosts often post their rentals on multiple platforms to increase visibility, simply adding listings on all four platform files would certainly be overkill”the EU statistical body EUROSTAT told EURACTIV.
Until now, the only way to solve the problem of multiple registrations was to combine personal data, which technology platforms could not share due to strict EU data protection rules.
The solution proposed by the Commission is to streamline and make a mandatory registration process for hosts, which would result in a single registration number and multiple declarations by hosts.
In any case, the EU will not be able to know whether these new rules are really adequate until they are implemented.
[Édité par Anne-Sophie Gayet]