May 04, 2016

    Berlin restricts Airbnb rentals to only rooms


    TRAVELLERS looking to rent an Airbnb apartment in Berlin may find their options limited after authorities began restricting private property rentals through such online platforms.

    People who let out entire residences on a short-term basis now face hefty fines of up to 100,000 euros (S$155,555) in a controversial move meant to keep housing affordable for locals.

    It is prompted by fears that the growing trend of people letting out apartments to tourists through sites such as Airbnb, Wimdu and 9Flats is cutting into a limited property supply and driving up rent.

    Rent in Berlin shot up 56 per cent between 2009 and 2014.

    Andreas Geisel, the city's head of urban development, said it is "a necessary and sensible instrument against the housing shortage".

    Given that it is more profitable to rent out whole apartments for short holiday lets, some are holding on to apartments for such purposes rather than having long-term tenants.

    San Francisco-based Airbnbis the biggest of several sites that allow people to offer and find such rental accommodation worldwide.

    Berlin has become one of Europe's top travel destinations, with 30.2 million overnight stays last year.

    The new law was passed in 2014 and provided for a two-year transition period that ended on April 30, after which owners are allowed to rent out only rooms via such portals, not entire flats or houses.

    Wimdu has filed a suit, arguing the law breaches the constitution of the city-state.

    And the owners of start-up 9Flats said they had sold the brand to a Singapore company.

    "We face a law in Berlin that would drive us into bankruptcy," its boss Roman Bach told the daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.