EU Considers Single Rules For Regulating Vacation Rental Platforms

EU Considers Single Rules For Regulating Vacation Rental Platforms
01/10/2021 , by , in INTERNATIONAL

European Union lawmakers are consulting on how to regulate the short-term rental market across the bloc — asking whether a single set of pan-EU rules or something more locally flavored is needed to rule over platforms like Airbnb.

The Commission says it wants to support an expansion of competition and players in the sector but also respect EU law which allows for Member States to apply local rules based on concerns that are in the public interest.

As it stands, a patchwork of rules and regulations has grown up around short-term rental platforms across Europe as cities grapple with the impact of over-tourism from uncontrolled growth of Airbnb et al. — and also struggle to extract useful data from platforms whose business model benefits from flipping local housing stock to drive short-term rental gains.

This dynamic is triggering the Commission’s customary anxiety around fragmentation of the Single Market. So it’s now asking for views from the industry and interested citizens as it considers whether a sector-specific regulation is needed. In a summary of its intention for the forthcoming short-term rental (STR) initiative, which will be fed by responses to the public consultation, the Commission writes that its aim is “to develop responsible, fair and trusted growth in short-term rentals, as part of a well-balanced tourist ecosystem” — and “ensure a level playing field for all accommodation service providers and to respond to the many requests from interested parties for EU-wide action in this area”.

However the regulation has been criticized for not going far enough to tackle illegal holiday rentals. In a position paper earlier this year, for example, the holiday accommodation booking platform, Booking.com, wrote that the Commission’s proposal could be more “ambitious” — saying it “insufficiently addresses illegal short term holiday rentals”.

“The powers for national (or local) authorities to order platforms to remove illegal content (Article 8) and to share information (Article 9) are a step in the right direction. However, enforcement loopholes remain,” it added. “Where short term vacation rentals are subject to an authorization /registration scheme, platforms should be required to ensure that only properly registered / authorized properties are listed. This is in line with the duty of care incumbent upon platforms.”

The Commission is also facing vocal pressure on the issue from heavily touristed cities across Europe — which have been trying to impose limits on the growth of holiday rentals, with mixed success. Governments in Europe have also been pressing the Commission to regulate for data access to vacation rental platforms, with the Dutch suggesting last year that it should embed such provisions in the DSA.

The European Parliament has also warned that the “expansive growth of short-term holiday rental in cities and popular tourist destinations is extracting housing from the market, driving up prices and has a negative impact on liveability”. And in a report last year MEPs also said: “We want to give cities more control over rentals short term accommodation platforms and ensure that these platforms share information with the cities, respecting data protection rules.”

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