Hoteliers welcome Paris decision forcing Airbnb hosts to register rentals

PARIS (Reuters) - French hoteliers cheered on Wednesday a Paris City Council decision making it mandatory from December for people renting their apartments on short-term rental websites such as Airbnb to register their property with the town hall.

A woman talks on the phone at the Airbnb office headquarters in the SOMA district of San Francisco, California, U.S., August 2, 2016. REUTERS/Gabrielle Lurie

The ruling comes as Airbnb, much like its ride-hailing peer Uber, is facing a growing crackdown from legislators worldwide triggered in part by lobbying from the hotel industry, who see the rental service as unfair competition.

Airbnb and other rental platforms have also been criticized for driving up property prices and contributing to a housing shortage in some cities such as Paris or Berlin.

With 350,000 listings, France is Airbnb’s second-largest market after the United States, and Paris, the most visited city in the world, is its biggest single market, with 65,000 homes.

On Tuesday the Paris City Council voted to make it mandatory from Dec. 1 to obtain a registration number from the town hall before posting an advertisement for a short-term rental on a website.

The ruling thus makes it harder for those renting out property to exceed the 120 days a year legal rental limit for a main residence, and makes it easier for authorities to track which properties are rented out, and also to collect local taxes.

“This is a strong signal sent out to other municipalities. Local collectivities now have a tool to monitor the tourist offers and control the collection of tourist taxes,” Roland Heguy, the head of French hotel federation UMIH said in a statement.

An Airbnb spokesman said the rental website would comply with the new rules and ensure its clients knew about it.

Like a lot of big cities Paris is cracking down on illegal tourist rentals and trying to regulate and limit the legal element of the phenomenon.

The French capital lost at least 20,000 rental properties from the market over the last five years, and in the central and western part of Paris tourist rentals now make up to 20 percent of the global rental offer, the City Council said in its ruling.

Due to pressure from hoteliers and officials Airbnb has agreed to charge visitors the traditional French “tourist tax”.

It began collecting the tax from guests in Paris in 2015 and now collects it in 50 French cities. It paid back to French authorities 7.3 million euros ($8.3 million) in tourist taxes in 2016.

Reporting by Dominique Vidalon; Editing by Andrew Callus and Susan Thomas