• Germany's news in English
Berlin cracks down on Airbnb rentals to cool market
The Airbnb trend has also impacted the local hotel industry. Photo: DPA

Berlin cracks down on Airbnb rentals to cool market

AFP · 1 May 2016, 11:42

Published: 01 May 2016 11:42 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

The German capital fears that the growing trend of people letting out apartments to tourists through sites such as Airbnb, Wimdu and 9Flats is cutting into a limited property supply and driving up rents.

From May 1st, the city-state will enact a new law known by the German mouthful of "Zweckentfremdungsverbot", or prohibition of improper use.

It is "a necessary and sensible instrument against the housing shortage in Berlin," said Andreas Geisel, Berlin's head of urban development.

"I am absolutely determined to return such misappropriated apartments to the people of Berlin and to newcomers," he said.

Rents in Berlin shot up 56 percent between 2009 and 2014, although at around 10 euros per square metre this year, they are relatively low compared to other major European cities.

Given that it is more profitable to rent out whole apartments for short holiday lets, some investors are holding on to apartments for such rentals rather than having long-term tenants.

San Francisco-based Airbnb.com -- short for the business's original name AirBed & Breakfast -- is the biggest of several sites that allow people to offer and find such rental accommodation worldwide.

While Berlin has become one of Europe's top travel destinations, with 30.2 million overnight stays last year, the Airbnb trend has also impacted the local hotel industry.

According to research firm GBI, the private online bookings represent a "parallel market of an additional 6.1 million" overnight stays a year.

The new law was passed in 2014 and provided for a two-year transition period that ended on April 30, after which owners are only allowed to rent out rooms via such portals, not entire flats or houses.

Offenders can face fines of up to €100,000 ($113,000).

To catch them, the city has even appealed to the "civic spirit" of its residents and asked them to anonymously report any suspected misuse online.

Tim Boening, a 41-year-old artists' agent who rents out a loft in the trendy Kreuzberg district, said he wasn't shocked by the new law, given the practices he has witnessed.

There is, for example, "the nice couple with two small apartments who move in together into a bigger place and keep the two apartments to rent them out on Airbnb," he told AFP.

"I don't think that's good, it should be stopped," he said, as these apartments are not available to "normal" tenants.

Marika, 48, couldn't agree less and is furious about the change, having long rented out four apartments near the centre of Berlin via Airbnb.

She believed that the city is making Berliners pay for its failed housing policy while serving the needs of the hotel industry.

"This is unfair, we are forbidden from doing our work," said Marika -- not her real name.

The only impact, she argued, would be that some groups, especially families, will simply stay away.

She was especially angry about the request to turn in offenders, saying that "in Germany, of all places, maybe we should reconsider this kind of thing," in reference to the Nazi and former East German communist dictatorship in which denouncing others was common practice.

Airbnb Germany said "Berliners want clear and simple rules for home sharing, so they can continue to share their own home with guests".

The practice differs from other types of accommodation "and helps many Berliners pay their rent," spokesman Julian Trautwein told AFP in a statement.

"We will continue to encourage Berlin policy-makers to listen to their citizens and to follow the example of other big cities such as Paris, London, Amsterdam or Hamburg and create new, clear rules for normal people who are sharing their own homes."

Story continues below…

Wimdu has meanwhile filed a suit, arguing the law breaches the constitution of the city-state of Berlin.

And the owners of start-up 9Flats said they had sold the brand to a Singapore company.

"We face a law in Berlin that would drive us into bankruptcy," its boss Roman Bach told the daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

Several property owners who use Airbnb have formed the "Apartments Allianz" to push back against the charge they are evil capitalists growing rich on the backs of fellow Berliners.

Rather, they say, they have offered "an attractive, varied range of beautiful and individual apartments", and have through their personal hospitality "significantly contributed to a positive image for Berlin".

They say they are "not international players, but working in Berlin for Berlin".


For more news from Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Today's headlines
Obama to visit Berlin in last presidential trip to Germany
President Barack Obama and Chancellor Angela Merkel during a Berlin trip in 2013. Photo: DPA.

The White House announced on Tuesday that US President Barack Obama will be paying one last unexpected visit to the German capital - his last before he leaves office.

Hostility towards minorities 'widespread in Bavaria'
A village in southern Bavaria. Photo: DPA.

Hate and hostility towards groups deemed to be different are not just sentiments felt by fringe extremists, a new report on Bavaria shows.

Hated RB Leipzig emerge as shock challengers to Bayern
RB Leipzig. Photo: DPA

RB Leipzig's remarkable unbeaten start to the Bundesliga season has seen them suddenly emerge at the head of the pack chasing reigning champions and league leaders Bayern Munich.

Munich taxi driver in hospital after attack by British tourists
Photo: DPA

A taxi driver had to be hospitalized in Munich on Monday evening after three British tourists refused to pay their fare and then attacked him.

German police carry out nationwide anti-terror raids
Police outside a building in Jena during raids on Tuesday. Photo: DPA

Police forces in five German states carried out raids on Tuesday morning with the aim of tackling the financing of terror groups, police in Thuringia have reported.

The Local List
10 ways German completely messes up your English
Photo: DPA

So you've mastered German, but now it's time to learn English all over again.

Iconic German church being eroded away by human urine
Ulm Minster towering over the rest Ulm surrounding the Danube. Photo: Pixabay

It will now cost you €100 to spend a penny. That’s if you get caught choosing to pee against the world-famous Ulm Minster.

German small arms ammo exports grow ten-fold
Photo: DPA

The government has come in for criticism after new figures revealed that Germany exported ten times the quantity of small arms ammunition in the first half of 2016 as in the same period last year.

14-year-old stabs 'creepy clown' in prank gone wrong
File photo: DPA.

A 16-year-old in Berlin decided he wanted to scare some friends, but his plot backfired in a violent way.

Four Ku Klux Klan groups active in Germany, says govt
An American member of the KKK at a gathering in Georgia. Photo: EPA.

The German government estimates that there are four Ku Klux Klan (KKK) groups currently active in the country, according to a report by the Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) on Tuesday.

Germany's 10 most weird and wonderful landmarks
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany
How Germans fell in love with America's favourite squash
How I ditched London for Berlin and became a published author
12 clever German idioms that'll make you sound like a pro
23 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
9 unmissable events to check out in Germany this October
10 things you never knew about German reunification
10 things you're sure to notice after an Oktoberfest visit
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd