Economic Chamber wants Airbnb guidelines

Most people offering short-term flats don't follow all the existing rules

Prague 1 Town Hall knows about roughly a thousand apartments used by their owners for short-term rental. But that seems to be only the tip of the iceberg. Filip Dvořák, vice president of the Economic Chamber of Prague 1, told news broadcaster ČT24 that there are many times that amount offered by Airbnb, just one service offering short-term flats.

The Economic Chamber has presented a code describing the legal and ethical obligations that should be met by landlords.

Current legislation requires flat owners renting them out through services like Airbnb to report accommodation to the city so fees can be paid. Recurrent renting is also a taxable business. However, enforcement is problematic.

“Our ambition was to start creating a list of duties that could add more things and clarifications,” Dvořák told the broadcaster. The code includes both statutory and ethically desirable rules.

The statutory group includes legal obligations paying fees, registering foreign guests with the police, making lease agreements, having a trade license and following electronic evidence of sales (EET) rules if the guest pays in cash. The second group of ethical obligations includes good communication with neighbors and residents.

The code will be published on the Economic Chamber web site. It is intended to get flat owners to start following business rules. “We are aiming to have them realize that if they do not behave in a decent way, it may happen that this possibility [to rent flats] will end completely,” Dvořák said. Berlin and New York have started to enforce strict regulations against short-term rentals, for example. Amsterdam and New York limit the number of days a year a flat can be rented short-term. In Berlin, accommodation can only be provided by someone who lives in the real estate. In other words, they can rent rooms but not entire flats.

Vienna now requires mandatory registration of accommodation providers, which has helped to increase the amount of taxes collected by about half.

Flat owners are supposed to pay Prague 1 a Kč 15 fee per person per day for accommodated guests. The money is divided between the city and the district. Most people renting flats do not report the occupants or pay the fees, Dvořák said.

The city's financial office lacks the staff to check on the flats and also has no way of knowing about the flats in the first place. In the case of repeated renting, the owner may also face a trade office inspection.

According to a government's analysis, in Prague, Airbnb had an annual trade volume of Kč 2.2 billion. The city is looking at legislative changes to regulate the so-called shared economy. The government is also looking into the issue, not only relating to renting flats, but also for other shared-economy businesses such as chauffeur services like Uber.

Prague was number nine in the top 10 destinations this summer in terms of Airbnb bookings, according to a press release from the company issued earlier this year.

Last year, Airbnb hosted 710,000 foreign tourists in the Czech Republic, a year-on-year increase of 59 percent.

In April this year, the number of accommodation offers in the Czech Republic was 15,900, of which 11,500 were in Prague, according to figures cited by ČT24. In addition to Airbnb, other services such as FlipKey, HomeAway, House Trip, Vacation Rentals, and Vrbo are offering flats for short-term rent.

People coming to the Czech Republic to use private accommodation come most often from France, Italy and the UK, followed by the US. More than half of the people are visiting the Czech Republic for the first time. Some 7.07 million people visited Prague in 2016, with 6.05 million of them being foreigners, based on statistics from the Czech Statistical Office (ČSÚ).

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