“Zweckentfremdungsverbot”—that’s the newest law in Berlin placing some major restrictions on vacations rentals in Europe. In June, the German capital joined the list of international cities hoping to ‘prohibit the misuse of housing’ through platforms such as Airbnb, Wimdu, 9Flats, and other similar sites. And given that the city is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe (with roughly 30.2 million overnight visitors in 2015), there’s no doubt been hordes of not-so-fun effects for renters and renters alike. According to new regulations, owners in Berlin are now limited to renting rooms only (instead of entire flats or apartments as short-term vacation rentals).
There are similar rules being put into effect in other major European cities, and “homestay” websites no longer seem to be such an uncomplicatedly good idea. If fact, as of late, vacation apartments and the agencies that market them are on a rapid decline in spots like Paris, Barcelona, and, of course Berlin. So as officials continue to crack down on online sharing services, we’ve gathered up all the important need-to-knows you’ll want to be aware of. The once budding home-sharing economy has become a thing of the past, as governments move to stop out-of-towners from overrunning neighborhoods and displacing local residents. Here’s everything you need to know about vacation rental restrictions in various European cities.
Rental Restrictions in Europe: What You Need To Know
1. Paris, France
Once upon a time, the City of Light was Airbnb's most popular destination, with 40,000 listings — that’s eight thousand more than New York! Homeowners were free to rent out their primary residences for up to four months per year. However, Parisian law as of 2012 put a stop to this, as new national regulations require any French city with a population of over 200,000 to demand locals to obtain special licenses if wanting to rent out short-term for more than 120 days. Further, those hoping to rent out investment properties need to own an equivalent property with a long-term tenant in order to do so.
Government inspectors around town basically enforced a ban on short-term stays in investment properties booked through Airbnb, Wimdu, Housetrip and other similar websites. Fines for breaking the rule can exceed $28,000-- and the going will likely be getting even tougher, as Paris City Hall is currently trying to get the maximum fines for illegal vacation rentals increased from €25,000 to €100,000. Bummer.
2. Barcelona, Spain
The cosmopolitan capital of Spain’s Catalonia region has got one of the toughest official attitudes towards vacation rentals in all of Europe. Landlords are required to obtain a permit from the city in order to rent out their properties legally. What’s more is that officials slapped Airbnb and HomeAway last December with hefty fines for listing apartments that lacked this said license. Since then, Barcelona has promised to fine over twenty additional property rental companies, so travelers planning to jet over to Spain should take advantage of what’s left of the vacation rentals still available. For now,
Be extremely mindful to be especially good guests when you arrive though, as most of the rental restrictions came only after a wave of popular protests against noisy, antisocial tourists and exploitative landlords. Let’s just say that local patience has worn super thin for out-of-towners, and along with other European cities, Barcelona continues introducing laws to curb the number of apartments reserved for short-stay tenants.
3. Dublin, Ireland
The capital of Ireland seems to carry—at least at the moment-- some of the lightest anti-vacation rental rules that have been introduced in Europe. Plus, all the local hoopla only stems from the fact that residents of Central Dublin tourist magnet Temple Bar were shocked earlier this year after learning that an apartment in the area earned an incredible $88,000 from short-term rentals on Airbnb in 2015. After protests, the city council ruled that owners would now need to apply for planning permissions for commercial use if they wanted to continue renting out flats on a short-term basis. However, the ruling was “site specific,” so there are currently still no plans to roll out the policy across the entire city.
4. Berlin, Germany
According to CityLab, Berlin had just about 11,000 full apartments for rent on Airbnb in February 2016. By March, however, the number dropped drastically to a mere 6,700. Why’s that? Recent vacation rental restrictions, of course.
Along with Spain and Italy, where the hotel industry has also called for a crackdown on room-sharing, Germany’s new laws against AirBnB and other such sites continues to draw mixed reactions. According to Andreas Geise, Berlin’s head of urban development, the law was “a necessary and sensible instrument against the housing shortage in Berlin”—it’s also a needed change in order to give the city back to its permanent residents. Those still hoping to rent out full flats can face fines of up to €100,000.
Simply put, nowhere else in Europe will you find tougher vacation rental restrictions than in Germany’s three largest cities. And though landlords are officially allowed to apply for permits, the number of licenses granted are purposefully small, especially in areas of high housing demand. For the time being, some spots still have numerous apartments for rent short-term. Just beware that many of these may well disappear over the next several months.
5. Reykjavik, Iceland
A new law passed in June 2016 puts Reykjavik’s 1,600 Airbnb rentals under much tighter restrictions. Other vacation apartments elsewhere in Iceland will also be buckled down on, as special licenses will now be needed for any apartment rented out for more than 90 days, and/or that gains an annual gross income exceeding 1 million Icelandic Krona ($8,082). These licenses will be tightly controlled, and those choosing to rent out holiday apartments will now need to register their property annually at an additional cost of 8,000 Krona ($65). The changes might pull some full-time rentals off the market, but for now, there still seems to be a decent pool of non-permanent vacation apartments to choose from.
6. Amsterdam, Netherlands
Holland’s biggest tourist destination now bans any and all vacation apartments from being rented out for more than two months per year, or to more than four people at a time. Since earlier this year, the city has been “scraping” digital records to see if they can figure out which apartments offered for short-term rent no longer have landlords living inside them. Since the number of potential properties to dig through is more than humungous, Netherland’s capital city has allotted just about $1.125 million to fund the search. As if that weren’t enough, other Dutch cities, including Rotterdam, Utrecht, and The Hague, are considering to follow suit.
It’s nice to know that not all of Europe’s finest cities are cracking down on vacation rentals. The home of Big Ben has remained silent on the issue—even Lisbon has been surprisingly encouraging. It appears that holiday renting is still tolerated in most areas of England. Go Great Britain!
This article was written by Pamela Chan.