Airbnb puts automatic rental cap on central Paris offers

PARIS (Reuters) - Short-term rental website Airbnb, which has been challenging traditional hotel operators such as Accor and Marriott, said it would automatically cap the number of days its hosts can rent their property each year in central Paris.

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 decision, which goes into effect in January and mirrors initiatives already in place in London and Amsterdam, will force hosts to effectively comply with France’s official limit on short-term rentals of 120 days a year for a main residence.

It comes as Airbnb, similar to its taxi-hailing peer Uber, is facing a growing crackdown from legislators worldwide - triggered in part by lobbying from the hotel industry, which sees the rental service as providing 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.

Airbnb, which has denied having a significant impact on housing shortages, has been trying to placate local authorities.

“Paris is Airbnb number one city worldwide and we want to insure our community of hosts expands in a responsible and sustainable manner,” said Emmanuel Marill, Airbnb general manager for France.

In Paris, the automatic rental cap will apply only to the city’s first four districts (“arrondissements”) unless the property owner has proper authorization. These districts include tourist hotspots such as the Marais, and landmarks such as the Louvre and the place de la Concorde square.

Airbnb is implementing the cap as the Paris city council has made it mandatory from December for people renting their apartments on short-term rental websites to register their property with the town hall.

Ian Brossat, the housing advisor to the Paris Mayor, told Reuters that the cap should extend to the whole of Paris.

“Under the law, websites must withdraw listings that do not comply with the law throughout Paris. One cannot accept that a website complies with the law only in the first four arrondissements of Paris,” said Brossat.

With over 400,000 listings, France is Airbnb’s second-largest market after the United States. Paris, which is the most visited city in the world, is Airbnb’s biggest single market, with 65,000 homes.

Reporting by Dominique Vidalon; Additional reporting by Arthur Connan in Paris; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta