thursday, 12 april of 2018

Paris sues Airbnb over rental listings

The city of Paris is suing Airbnb Inc. to remove tens of thousands of unregistered listings in the French capital, heralding what could be a costly showdown in one of the company’s largest markets.

Paris demanded Thursday that a French court force Airbnb—and other smaller platforms—to remove listings that don’t comply with a new law that requires Parisians renting out their primary residences on sites like Airbnb to display a city registration number in their listings.

The city has asked the court to fine the home-sharing sites €1,000 ($1,233) per listing a day if they don’t comply—fines that could total more than €1 million a month for Airbnb, given its number of listings, according to Ian Brossat, Paris’s deputy mayor in charge of housing policy.

A trial date is set for June 12, Mr. Brossat said.

“We are disappointed by this decision, which will hurt local families who share their homes and puts their needs behind the financial interests of big hotel chains and well-funded lobby groups,” a spokesman for Airbnb wrote in an emailed statement. “We will continue working with Paris on clear and simple rules that work for everyone—not just big businesses,” he added.

The case escalates pressure on Airbnb over the impact it allegedly has on local rental markets. Paris and many other cities argue that the firm’s short-term rentals make it more lucrative for property owners to cater to tourists than to rent out homes to long-term residents, and have sought to limit them.

The city says the registration numbers help track compliance with an annual cap of 120 nights that is aimed at keeping short-term rentals from taking over the city.

“What’s at stake for us is the very identity of Paris,” Mr. Brossat said. “We can’t let Paris become a museum city where no one can afford to live.”

In part to diffuse tensions, Airbnb last November said it would start automatically applying the city’s 120 limit in parts of central Paris, effectively forcing some hosts to comply with the city’s legal limit on short-term rentals of noncommercial homes. But the site said it wouldn’t do so in other parts of the city, provoking ire from city hall.

“We regularly share information on the positive impacts of home sharing in Paris, and the vast majority of hosts are regular Parisians who share their homes,” the Airbnb spokesman said.

(Published by The Wall Street Journal, April 12, 2018)

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