These Cities Have Had It with Airbnb

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Last weekend, during the city’s May Day celebrations, Berlin’s latest initiative against Airbnb took effect. In an effort to protect affordable housing, the city has banned tourists from renting entire apartments through Airbnb.

The new, and wonderfully “German,” mouthful of a law “Zweckentfremdungsverbot”—prohibition of improper use (because, of course, Germans have a word for it)—bans, those without a city permit, the short-term lease of entire apartments to tourists.

Berliners found flouting these rules can be fined up to €100,000 ($115,879). As a result of the new law, since April 30, Berlin Airbnb listings have dropped 40%. Perhaps in the future, Berlin will follow the example of cities like Paris, London, Amsterdam or even Hamburg, to create clear rules for home sharers, but for now it looks as though the ban will stick.

But Berlin’s not the only city struggling to embrace Airbnb. In fact, many popular cities in Airbnb’s backyard haven’t figured out the legality of the website.

New York City: NYC’s long tried to crackdown on what they call “illegal Airbnb rentals”— though the city’s 16,000 listings beg to differ. The New York state attorney general has accused the rental service of enabling illegal hotels, allowing a small number of hosts to earn “millions” while eliminating available, affordable housing. In February, Mayor de Blasio put Airbnb “on notice, hoping to confront the sharing economy and get “aggressive” with greedy landlords violating the state’s illegal hotel laws.

New Orleans: Following a huge uptick in rentals for this year’s Jazz Fest, New Orleans plans to pass tougher rules for rentals. This year Airbnb saw record numbers of rentals, nearly 20,000, for the festival, but some hotels are recording vacancies for the first time ever. That news prompted legislators to step in. According to New Orleans’ NBC affiliate, short-term rentals like Airbnb are technically illegal in the city, but the law is seldom enforced.

San Francisco: Last November, San Francisco rejected the first of what’s likely to be many “Airbnb Initiatives,” which would have limited the city’s short-term housing rentals to 75 nights per year and would have allowed the city to fine sites like Airbnb for listing short-term rentals not registered with the city. To fight future legislation, Airbnb has started investing in San Francisco politics so far, to be exact. Considering the city of San Francisco says 76 percent of Airbnb listings are illegal, $230,000 seems like a small investment.

Los Angeles: Just a few weeks ago, Los Angeles proposed a new measure to regulate
vacation-rental sites
which could set the stage, in the coming months, for a political showdown between Airbnb and the city of Los Angeles. The plan would allow L.A. to fine any online platform advertising illegal rentals, of which, if the SF numbers are indicative of anything, there are probably a lot.

Tom is a travel writer, part-time hitchhiker, and he’s currently trying to imitate Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? but with more sunscreen and jorts.