Prague looking at curbing Airbnb

Short-term rentals are costing the city in unpaid tourism taxes

Many tourists to Prague now bypass hotels and use flats found via the internet on sites such as Airbnb. But the city is seeking to greatly reduce this practice. Some European cities already regulate short-term flat rentals, but Prague is not among them. The city is currently preparing a statistical analysis of the situation with flats in Prague. The results will be used to guide policy on the issue. Amsterdam, for example, limits the short-term rental on a flat to 60 days in one year.

Prague 1 board member Ivan Soleil (ČSSD) said that the situation of having apartments for short-term rental side-by-side with long-term residents is causing tension among neighbors. The short-term rentals are often overcrowded with noisy tourists who use disproportionate amounts of water, which the neighbors pay for, and produce a lot of trash, Soleil said, according to daily Pražský deník.

Soleil, who works on municipal issues including safety, crime prevention and public order, brought up the issue at the March meeting of the Prague board. He said that the turnover of people in flats in the building he lives in resembles the hourly procession of saints in the Astronomical Clock.

There are other concerns aside from noise. The practice of buying up flats to use as short-term rentals has driven up the cost of flats in the city center and has also impacted on hotel occupancy, City Counclor Matěj Stropnický (Greens) said. He added that the city also loses millions of crowns in taxes that hotels would pay for occupancy and recreation. Last year, Prague saw 7 million tourists using overnight accommodation and collected over Kč 140 million in fees.

Prague 1 Deputy Mayor Daniel Hodek (ČSSD) said that a new legislative framework needs to be created to deal with the problems brought by short-term rentals. He compared the situation to Segways, which were a problem downtown until zoning laws were implemented to address the situation.

Hodek and Soleil pointed out that currently for a building under joint ownership to ban short-term rentals, everyone has to agree on the ban including the person who want to rent the flat.

A one-sentence change to the law would be enough to fix the situation. If the law simply required a quorum of flat owners to vote for a ban, then the one owner who wanted to rent out a short-term flat couldn't overrule it.

Airbnb has argued in other cities that the number of tourists is larger than the number of hotel rooms, and the service as a result helps to increase tourism. That is not the case in Prague, according to critics, and services like Airbnb are simply businesses operating outside of the legal framework. Airbnb has operated in Prague for five years.

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