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Barcelona to fine Airbnb and HomeAway €600,000 each

Nov 29, 2016

Barcelona to fine Airbnb and HomeAway €600,000 each

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Home-sharing sites penalised for listing unlicensed tourist apartments

The mayor of Barcelona has said the city will fine Airbnb and HomeAway €600,000 each, in the latest skirmish between local authorities around the world and online home-sharing services. City administrations from Berlin to New York have blamed Airbnb and its rivals for driving up rental prices and pushing out local residents.

Ada Colau, Barcelona’s mayor, said the fines were for listing unlicensed tourist apartments for short-term let.

“It is not acceptable that there are thousands of apartments operating illegally and without a licence, without paying taxes and causing damage to homeowner associations,” she said.

The fines are the second sanctions Barcelona has levied against Airbnb and HomeAway . In July 2015, the city served each of them two fines of €30,000 for offering tourist apartments without publishing their tourism registry licence number, as required by law in Barcelona’s region of Catalonia. HomeAway paid the fines, while Airbnb appealed against the order, Ms Colau said.

Since then, the two sites have continued to offer apartments without licence numbers, the city said. Because the number of unlicensed rentals offered was high — 3,812 for Airbnb and 1,744 for HomeAway, according to the city — the municipal administration decided to apply the maximum fine of €600,000.

Airbnb’s spokesman in Barcelona, Andreu Castellano, said the company was “saddened” by the decision and would appeal.

“Less than a month ago, we met with officials and Airbnb committed to work together in the best interest of the city,” Mr Castellano said in a statement. “Airbnb is part of the solution in Barcelona. We want to be good partners to cities and we will keep proactively seeking collaboration with Barcelona to maintain this dialogue and support regular people who share their homes.”

The fines in Barcelona are part of a larger effort to control a tourism boom that has angered many city residents. Between July and October, the city says it issued cease and desist orders to 709 unlicensed apartments.

“Tourism is a positive asset for the city, but it was unbalanced and it is having a direct impact on the right to housing,” said Ms Colau.

Barcelona’s moves reflect those in other popular tourist cities. In Berlin, a law banning short-term rentals, originally passed in 2014, went into effect on May 1. Under the law, those who rent more than 50 per cent of their apartment, on a short-term basis without a city permit, risk being fined up to €100,000.

In October, New York governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law a bill that effectively imposed a similar ban on the short-term rental of entire apartments in New York City . Violators face fines of up to $7,500.

The laws were both meant to ease a housing shortage and slow rising rents.

Airbnb is currently in talks to buy Xiaozhu , China’s second-largest home accommodation service, which is seen by some as a reaction to the regulatory crackdown in Europe and elsewhere.

HomeAway did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

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