Berlin loosens law for short-term home rentals

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Berlin lawmakers on Thursday passed a law that will permit short-term apartment rentals on home-sharing platforms such as Airbnb, relaxing severe restrictions in the German capital.

The amendment, passed after months of debate over its impact on the city’s housing market, will allow Berliners to rent out their primary homes after obtaining a permit from local city officials, but cracks down on commercial short-term rentals.

The law, effective on May 1, removes a cap on the duration of rentals of primary residences by owners on vacation. Previous drafts had included an annual limit of 60 days.

Secondary home rentals are limited to 90 days per year.

Lawmakers, who were forced to revise a 2014 law after a court found it violated the German constitution, touted the bill as a successful compromise.

Airbnb welcomed the changes.

“We want to continue our good dialogue with the city of Berlin and promote a permit procedure that is unbureaucratic and citizen-friendly,” Alexander Schwarz, Airbnb’s general manager for Germany, said in a statement.

Ülker Radziwill, the head of Berlin’s parliamentary committee for urban development and housing, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Airbnb has sparred with regulators across the globe, as cities from Berlin to Paris and its hometown of San Francisco have tried to limit the impact of short-term rentals on neighbourhoods and urban housing markets.

Chief Executive Brian Chesky said in February that Airbnb had come to terms with its responsibility.

Berlin city officials, alarmed by a shortage of affordable housing due to the city’s growing attractiveness and an influx of migrants, in 2014 passed a bill that severely restricted short-term rentals.

Under that bill, people renting out their homes for less than two months had faced fines up to 100,000 euros (£87,260) and although landlords could seek a permit, city officials said they would reject 95 percent of requests.

Reporting by Tina Bellon; Editing by Richard Chang