City launches portal about shared accommodation

The obligations of both landlords and renters using online flat bookings are spelled out

Prague City Hall has launched a section of its website for people using online shared accommodation services such as Airbnb, Booking, Trivago, Roomorama, and VRBO. The site at shared-accommodation.praha.eu and sdileneubytovani.praha.eu has sections for accommodation providers and for renters in Czech, English, German and French.

“The site informs owners about tax and business obligations, the spa or recreation stay fee, the duty to notify the Foreigner Police, and so on. Those who want to stay in Prague can find recommendations and important rules regarding, for example, house rules and the observance of the night quiet hours between 10 pm and 6 am and a lot of other information,” Prague Mayor Adriana Krnáčová (ANO) said on the praha.eu website.

Prague City Hall says that most people offering accommodation through websites do not pay the fees that they are supposed, such as Kč 15 per visitor per day. This adds up to millions of crowns in lost revenue to the city. The site points out how and when these fees need to be paid to the city.

Providers of accommodation need to have a business license, pay income taxes and keep a register of guests as well.

“Upon the end of each calendar month, the landlord is obliged to report to the relevant city office the number of stay days of the accommodated persons that are subjected to the charge, and the total amount of the fee, which he is required to pay for these persons,” the site states, adding that fines for noncompliance can be up to Kč 500,000.

“The accommodation provider is required to notify the police of the alien’s accommodation within 3 working days of the starting date of accommodation,” the site also states.

“In case of an inspection, the accommodation provider is obliged to present the guest register containing the personal data of aliens accommodated at that time,” the site adds.

“Beware, ignorance of the law is not an excuse; you are responsible for fulfilling your duties,” the site points out.

Landlords seem to rely on the fact that shared housing is a difficult-to-control area, where it can be questionable whether it falls under a trade and is thus subject to a fee, City Hall states on its website.

“A large number of providers of shared accommodation currently do not know about their obligations or find them unclear. Informing them is the first necessary step we have to take if we want our obligations to be fulfilled,” Prague City Councilor Jan Wolf (KDU-ČSL) said.

Renters should also be aware of some obligations, according to the portal. “If you decide to use shared web-based accommodation services … keep in mind that you are staying in a place where the locals live long-term!” the site states.

The site also warns renters to be aware of who has access to the offered flat, and that the flats might have problems such as a lack of safety inspections or other issues. “Not all apartments within the offered accommodations are suitable for lodging,” the site states. It also points out that renters must pay the spa tax and provide personal details.

Noise has been a complaint from other tenants in buildings with shared flats. “It is inconsiderate not just to the landlord, but in general when you are staying and paying for two then allow another ten people to stay, whether they are people you meet at the bar or fellow travelers,” the site states.

Some people still want more to be done about Airbnb and similar services. Those who favor more regulations say they could lead to a slower growth in rent prices and a wider offer of more affordable housing. Limiting shared flats could also change the character of the city center due to long-term tenants having a stronger relation to the neighborhood.

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. Offenders face large fines.

New York and Amsterdam set a limit on how many days per year a flat can be rented out. Vienna now requires mandatory registration of accommodation providers, which has helped to increase the amount of taxes collected by about half.

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 many users of services like Airbnb are simply businesses operating outside of the legal framework, they say. Airbnb has operated in Prague for five years.

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