City looks at Airbnb problems
The mayor wants to regulate short-term rentals, but an economist differs
Prague Mayor Adriana Krnáčová (ANO) wants to regulate short term rentals using services like Airbnb. She claims the city should resolve problems related to the service. Airbnb is an internet-based service that allows people to rent out their flats or spare rooms to tourists, who use the flats instead of hotels or other accommodations.
Especially in the city center, people in residential buildings have been complaining of noise, garbage and damage from apartments that owners do not occupy flats themselves but instead rent them out to an endless string of tourists. Excess water usage has also been criticized, as most buildings split these fees among all the building residents, but large numbers of tourists crowding in to a small flat use a disproportionate share.
Security and failure to pay tourism taxes are further issues.
Shared economy expert Aleš Rod of CETA — Centre for Economic and Market Analyses disagrees that Airbnb is probelmatic. He claims Prague should look to places where it works. “Prague has a lot of specific problems, but shared accommodation is not among them. We should get inspiration from towns where it works, and not necessarily invent what was already been invented,” Rod told news server Novinky.cz. He added that the city is struggling to cope with the shared economy concept, which brings a range of issues and challenges.
“[Airbnb] is a popular service that people love using, so it makes no sense to build economic and administrative barriers. … The problems are caused by old regulations that totally disregard the current level of knowledge and the ongoing digital revolution,” Rod told Novinky.cz.
Rod claims a better situation would be if shared economy services did not operate in a gray area, but if there was an agreement between the operator and the city that would set out rules and tax obligations.
Mayor Krnáčová told the server that she wanted to take a broad perspective on the issue. She pointed out that New York and Berlin have imposed regulations that effectively ban the service by limiting the number of days any particular flat can be rented out to tourists. Krnáčová said that so far such a ban is not her intention.
Krnáčová cited several problems associated with web-based short-term rentals. One is that the city is not collecting tourism taxes that hotels and similar places are required to charge. She said the city has no way to check who is renting out flats over Airbnb and no way to monitor whether they charge the taxes and pay the city.
“The second issue is numerous complaints from people who live next to the apartments. They usually have a problem not only with frequent noise, but also with the fact that they do not know who actually lives next to them,” Krnáčová told Novinky.cz.
She also cited security concerns, as there is no way to monitor who is using the accommodations. Hotels have an obligation to report the identity of guests to the police. There is no way to check if Airbnb rental owners are meeting that legal obligation.
Rod dismissed many of these arguments, claiming that Airbnb does not allow for anonymous travel, and there are already noise regulations on the books that apply to everyone. He added that he lives near several hotels that were very noisy at night.
He concluded that regulators need to be clear to everyone in explaining what they want, and that they shouldn't create unnecessary administrative burdens. Rules for a large city should not be based on subjective feelings, he told Novinky.cz.
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