May 1st was the day new rules against holiday rentals came into force in Berlin, as the city state has blamed people privately renting homes to tourists through portals such as Airbnb, Wimdu and 9Flats for cutting into a limited property supply and driving up rents.
Rents in Berlin shot up 56 percent between 2009 and 2014, with a housing shortage widely blamed for putting pressure on the market.
And with the city fast becoming one of the most desirable tourist destinations in Europe – last year there were 30.2 million overnight stays in the city – the letting of private properties to tourists is seen as an exacerbation of the problem.
Now people renting entire apartments through the internet platforms are threatened with fines of up to €100,000. Those offering individual rooms in their apartments are not affected.
But hundreds of flats are still being offered on the sites, Spiegel reports.
When The Local searched for an entire apartment in Berlin on AirBnB for May 19th it found more than 300 listed.
“The rules are clear, now it’s time for the individual districts to take action,” Martin Pallgen, spokesperson for the Berlin building authority told Spiegel.
Authorities in Berlin's 12 districts will now have to start the painstaking work of checking the legality of each individual holiday let being offered in the city.
With over 5,000 flats being offered for let in the central district of Mitte alone, the district town halls are set to have their work cut out. City-wide there are between 10,000 and 14,000 privately offered holiday lets.
“It’s real urban warfare,” said Stephan von Dassel, a Green Party town councillor in Mitte.
The central Berlin district is tooling up with 64 new employees to tackle the issue, although none of these have yet been hired.
“The internet platforms need to support us on this,” von Dassel said, adding that he would demand a list with the names of landlords.
AirBnB insisted in an email to The Local that the people of Berlin want a deregulated letting market which allows them to pay living costs.
“Berlin's housing law is complex and unclear, and the government has released conflicting and confusing statements on how it will be implemented. This is bad news for Berlin and regular locals who occasionally share their homes to afford living costs in the city they love,” Julian Trautwein, head of communications at AirBnB, wrote.
“Berliners understand home sharing is different to other forms of accommodation in the city and want clear and simple home sharing rules.
“We will continue to encourage the government to listen to the people of Berlin and follow the lead of other major cities that have introduced clear, simple and progressive rules to support regular local residents who share their homes to pay the bills.”
Other major cities, including Hamburg, Munich, and Stuttgart, have placed restrictions on private holiday lets, although Berlin’s are the strictest.