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Working with Airbnb, not against it

Profile Photo By: Carsten Hennig
February 22, 2017

Working with Airbnb, not against it

Berlin/Vienna, 22 February 2017 – 
Airbnb is gaining ground: 8,000 landlords are listed in Vienna, in Berlin there are more than12,000. While hoteliers and local politicians are fighting this trend, Airbnb is growing in the business travel segment, too.

Airbnb does contribute to an increase in tourism of a destination, says Martin Schaffer, Analyst at MRP Hotels. In Vienna, a big part of the growth in tourism is due to private lettings via Airbnb. As of March, a new legislation applies which obliges the platform to disclose private landlords in Vienna. This is to ensure that city taxes are paid. Once the new law enters into force there will be a transitional period of six months. During this time, the city will conduct negotiations with Airbnb to find a concrete solution.

Almost 8,000 “landlords“ are listed in the Austrian capital by now. This large number not only contributes to the housing shortage of a continuously growing city, it also constitutes an increasing competition for commercial tourist accommodation.

Other cities are taking various measures to significantly restrict Airbnb’s business activities. Especially the letting of whole apartments to holidaymakers is now subject to tough restrictions in some places or is even prohibited unless a special permission has been given. This is supposed to prevent homes from being converted into holiday apartments and therefore from being withdrawn from an already tense housing market.

New Orleans has a special agreement with Airbnb, which could serve as a model for Vienna: Airbnb has not only agreed to collect the city taxes and to limit the overnight stay to 90 days per year, it has also agreed to disclose the names and addresses of the landlords. All hosts are even automatically registered with the council once they sign up with Airbnb. “We should come to a similar agreement in Vienna”, demands Andrea Steinleitner, chairman of the hotel industry expert group within the Chamber of Commerce of Vienna.

Berlin’s Airbnb landlords find an alternative option
It’s been almost nine months since Berlin’s government has prohibited short-term letting in Germany’s capital city (law of misuse). The vast majority of the 12,000 rooms available at the time were located within the most popular boroughs in Berlin and were mainly let to tourists. Commuters who want to rent furnished apartments for the duration of their work assignment in the city search for similar locations.

Darrell Smith, founder and director of estate agency BuyBerlin Investments explains that it’s mainly professionals who work abroad and live in hotels or furnished apartments for the duration of their assignment, that suffer from these changes. “Online platforms like Airbnb offer accommodation that feels like home away from home to those who travel a lot for work. This kind of accommodation is available despite the new legislation. Many landlords are not aware that they can earn much more money by renting out their flats on a short-term basis to business people without being affected by rent caps in long-term contracts.”

There are considerable advantages to this model. Landlords may demand the rent they deem appropriate. For example, a typical studio apartment with a 55 square meter bedroom would cost 1,375 Euro per month; almost twice as much as a comparable unfurnished flat. Contracts range from three months to one year and the rental agreement may include potential services like an obligatory monthly cleaning that must be paid by the tenant.

The most popular apartments are located in the central boroughs such as Mitte, Prenzlauer Berg, Friedrichshain, Kreuzberg, Charlottenburg or Wilmersdorf.

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