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French tourism industry declares open war on Airbnb

A French association of hotel and tourism companies said on Thursday it had filed a complaint with Paris prosecutors against websites that offer private holiday rentals, such as Airbnb, for unfair competition.

French tourism industry declares open war on Airbnb
The complaint was filed in November, but has only been made public now as French lawmakers are to consider an amendment that would allow cities with more than 200,000 residents to require the registration of short-term apartment rentals via the Internet.
   
“We aren't against these platforms,” said Jean-Bernard Falco, head of the AhTop association which counts 30,000 members in the tourism industry.
   
If France is to remain the world's top tourism destination “it is necessary to have an offer of accommodation that is sufficiently developed but we are seeking to be on an equal footing with these platforms, for a healthy competition, with a guarantee of transparency for consumers,” he told AFP.
   
An analysis by the Gide Loyrette Nouel law firm seen by AFP said the new platforms violate several French regulations.
   
AhTop called on lawmakers to require that websites ensure properties may legally be rented and declare rentals to tax authorities.
   
The boom in holiday rentals has also worried residents and officials in some cities as they fear a drop in apartments available for long-term rentals.
   
In response to criticism from hotels, Airbnb, which now collects the tourist tax in 20 French cities, presented a study last November showing it had a positive economic impact of 2.5 billion euros per year in France, which is the platform's second-largest market behind the United States.
 

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RENTING

Local authorities in France get power to crack down on Airbnb rentals

Authorities in Paris and other French towns will be able to regulate local businesses who wish to rent property on Airbnb, according to a decree published by the French government. 

Local authorities in France get power to crack down on Airbnb rentals
This illustration picture taken on July 24, 2019 in Paris shows the logo of the US online booking homes application Airbnb on the screen of a tablet. (Photo by Martin BUREAU / AFP)

The news was welcomed by authorities in Paris, who have long battled to keep a check on Airbnb and its impact on the rental market. 

On Sunday, the French government published a decree that allows the City of Paris to subject the renting of local businesses to prior authorisation. 

This decree applies to all types of offices, stores or medical offices who may be turned in holiday rentals. 

It aims to allow towns to limit the growth of rentals on Airbnb, “protect the urban environment and preserve the balance between employment, housing, businesses and services on their territory,” says the decree. 

The news was welcomed by authorities in Paris, which has been witnessing “the multiplication of ground floor business premises being transformed into holiday rentals,” said deputy mayor Ian Brossat, who is in charge of housing, in a press release

This decree which comes into effect on July 1st, “will prevent local businesses from being turned into holiday rentals,” Brossat added on Twitter.

The conditions businesses will have to meet in order to get an authorisation still have to be defined said Brossat, according to Le Figaro. But Paris aims to draft these regulations and get them voted by the end of 2021, so they can come into force at the beginning of 2022. 

Other towns allowed to apply the decree are those who have put into effect “the procedure of a registration number for furnished holiday apartments, owners and, subject to contractual stipulations, tenants of local businesses who wish to rent them as furnished holiday apartments.” 

In recent years, Paris city authorities have made tax registration obligatory for apartment owners and have restricted those renting out their primary residence to a maximum of 120 days a year.

Now if owners want to rent a furnished property for less than a year to holidaymakers, they must apply to local authorities for permission to change the registered use of the space.

They are then required to buy a commercial property of an equivalent or bigger size and convert it into housing as compensation. 

Until then, these onerous and time-consuming tasks did not apply to local businesses who only had to fill out a declaration.  

In February, France’s highest court, the Court of Cassation, ruled that regulations introduced to counter the effects of Airbnb and other short-term rental sites on the local property market were “proportionate” and in line with European law.

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