There is a lot of trouble brewing on the horizon for Airbnb. The popular tourism accommodation service provides leases of short-term apartments, cottages and the like for travelers to use on when they take vacations abroad. But that’s all up in the air now: Paris city officials have taken the company to court over their illegally listed apartments.
This hasn’t come out of the blue. Paris has been warning Airbnb about their conduct for a long time.Deputy housing mayor, Ian Brossat, remarked that “Airbnb does not respect the law,” and that it “has not made the slightest effort and has even explicitly refused to withdraw the ads.”
So what’s going on? Well, the issue is about restrictions and tax. Current legislation in Paris requires that homeowners may not let out their homes for more than 120 days a year, and it seems that properties listed on Airbnb have fallen afoul of this rule. Many homeowners seek to sidestep legal regulations and dodge fines and costs by failing to submit appropriate tax details. Paris city officials now accuse Airbnb of listing a massive 43,000 properties illegally. In December, the city warned Airbnb about these properties, urging them to deal with the problem, but Airbnb has refused to shift.
The outcome of the case on June 12th will determine whether or not the illegal advertisements will be allowed to remain on offer. If Paris wins the case, the court will force Airbnb to remove the listings and travelers will no longer be able to book or stay in their accommodation. Those who have already made their reservations might find themselves unable to contact the company or host, and those who have paid deposits may discover that they cannot obtain a refund.
Airbnb had been uncooperative throughout the process, and its track record does not bode well for it. The company has already been forced to pay fines of $1,200-$6,200 per illegitimate home for every day that they list it, mounting up to a grand total of $1.5 million last year. The total number that Airbnb has been made to pay out this year had already climbed to $603,000.
Airbnb commented that the matter of renting holiday accommodation was complex and they encouraged Paris to take the same route followed in London, Berlin, and Barcelona, but as yet the company has shown no sign of complying with Paris’ request.
None of this should come as a great surprise. Airbnb had illegitimate rentals thrown off its site last January when regulations in San Francisco forced them to remove over 3,000 listings – more than half of those listed in total. When this happened, unregistered hosts had all their reservations cancelled without notice and guests were forced to alter their plans, in some cases at short notice.
If you’re waiting to stay in a Paris accommodation booked with Airbnb, it would be a good idea to get in touch with your host as soon as you can. Confirm whether or not they have a valid tax IS. This should be a 13-digit number. If the host cannot provide this information then that should be a big red flag: it’s highly probable that their property is being rented to you illegally. You should protect yourself and consider cancelling the reservation immediately. If you have yet to book your accommodation in Paris then now you know: avoid Airbnb and book a hotel with one of our favorites, or seek guidance from a professional travel specialist.