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Share your opinion and help the EU simplify short-term regulations

european short-term rental initiative

Make your voice heard. It is crucial and easy to do. The European Union has plans to simplify short-term rental regulations across Europe, and you can influence the outcome by leaving a contribution on this public platform. This initiative would ensure that clear and simple rules are in place for short-term rentals across the EU while supporting public authorities in defending public interest objectives. The EU acknowledges that “across the EU, short-term rental market players are subject to a wide variety of regulatory and often burdensome requirements, often adopted at a local level, which can create market access barriers and make it more difficult to provide short-term rental services, in particular for small and medium enterprises”.

At Rental Scale-Up, we think that the proposal can have a positive impact on the life and work of property managers, individual hosts, listing sites, and service providers. To voice our opinion, go to the official Contribution page of the EU’s short-term rental initiative. You have until December 13, 2021 to do so. All you need to do is to fill in a questionnaire about your activity, about what you think of the multiple procedures that you have to go through and about how local authorities collect data on short-term rentals.

The results of this consultation will provide valuable input for the Commission’s impact assessment work on an initiative on short-term accommodation rental services. The EU Commission should adopt the initiative in the first quarter of 2022. Note that big actors such as Airbnb and Booking are making sure to contribute to the debate. Why would you let only big players have their say and later complain about it?

Note that this EU consultation is different from the debate about whether Airbnb and Booking.com are acting as gatekeepers in the common market and preventing smaller competitors to emerge.

Why has the European Union launched an iniative around short-term accommodation rental services?

The European Union’s Commission sees short-term rentals as a fast-growing sector that creates opportunities for businesses, in particular small and medium businesses, and citizens. As such, the responsible development of this new business model should be supported.

In its small and medium enterprises strategy of March 2020, the Commission announced an initiative on short-term accommodation rental services (‘short-term rental’). 

This consultation aims to collect feedback from all stakeholders on the current situation and the potential impacts of possible measures relating to the provision of short-term rental. In addition, stakeholders are consulted to gather views on the interest and usefulness of these measures and to provide any factual information, data, and knowledge that can be relevant to this initiative. 

A relevant view on the problems that small and medium short-term rental businesses face when trying to expand, either nationally or across the EU

In its overview of the market, the Commission’s analysis is rather compelling. It does a great job at describing two big issues that short-term rental services face within the EU.

Property managers, hosts, and listing run into contradictory and burdensome regulations on municipal, national, and pan-EU levels

Across the EU, short-term rental market players are subject to a wide variety of regulatory and often burdensome requirements, often adopted at a local level, which can create market access barriers and make it more difficult to provide short-term rental services, in particular for small and medium businesses.

This situation creates uncertainty as to how EU, national and local laws apply to short-term rentals. Short-term rental market players are increasingly subject to multiple and fragmented obligations, which affect the operation of their services and their potential to grow and scaleup at EU level. In certain cities hosts may be faced with restrictions or total ban on new short-term rental activities or to several local registration or authorisation schemes.

In addition, short-term rental rules do not always differentiate between hosts offering short-term rental services on a purely occasional basis and those doing so in a more professional capacity. This may result in a lack of level playing field situation wherein providers of similar accommodation services (i.e. hosts renting in a more professional capacity and other accommodation providers, such as hotels) are treated in a different manner, while hosts offering short-term rental services on a purely occasional basis may be faced with the same regulatory requirements that apply to professional hosts.

Public authorities want to collect data, for good reasons, but they do so in inconsistent and sometimes ineffective ways

To design and enforce appropriate rules on short-term rentals and to facilitate the operation and growth of small and medium businesses while promoting public interest objectives, such as ensuring the availability of affordable housing or securing compliance with health and safety rules, public authorities lack the relevant data (e.g., who rents what and how often), and information tools.

Online platforms often have such data, but they do not share them on a systematic and consistent basis with public authorities (amongst others because of uncertainty regarding the applicable rules, lack of consistent and systematic requests from public authorities, and privacy concerns).

To address this issue, some Member States have taken steps to create more transparency, e.g., introducing registration schemes for hosts and obligations on platforms to display their registration number in listings.

However, such measures have not been consistently enacted in all Member States. They diverge in scope and, on some occasions, have proven to be not effective. Recent data-sharing initiatives such as the Eurostat statistics on short-term rentals helped to provide useful data but do not appear to have fully addressed the problem.

What is the EU’s short-term rental initiatives recommending?

You can read below what the EU recommending in its roadmap document, in order to help small and medium short-term rental services thrive.

Access of public authorities to data on short-term rentals

Public authorities need data to understand the development of the short-term rental sector and be able to enact and enforce rules governing it. The initiative would assess first which type of data are relevant and necessary for public authorities (e.g., data on who rents out what and how often).

Second, the initiative would assess the different means to generate and ensure proper access to such data, in compliance with data protection legislation. For instance, it will explore the added value of registration obligations, as well as several data sharing options and/or transparency requirements between platforms and public authorities. In this regard, it could consider measures to avoid undue burden on smaller or start-up platforms. It could also consider the development of technical tools to facilitate data sharing, such as the development of an application programming interface (API).

In addition, the initiative will assess whether the use of a common registration scheme would address the data needs while limiting the burden on market players. The role platforms can play to facilitate the work of public authorities will also be assessed.

Market access conditions for small and medium short-term rental services

(Market access conditions for short-term rental players and level playing field short-term rental market players (e.g., hosts, management and maintenance service providers, and online platforms) should benefit from clear market access conditions across the EU.

To this end, the initiative could clarify and streamline the rules and requirements public authorities can impose on hosts and online platforms. The aim would be to offer legal certainty to authorities and market players but also to guarantee effective market access and remove unnecessary market access barriers.

In setting those rules, attention could be given to the type of provider as a means of ensuring level playing field conditions. For instance, to ensure the proportionality of short-term rental requirements, the initiative could explore the possibility and the ways to differentiate between hosts renting out occasionally and those renting out in a more professional capacity.

It could also specify the rules public authorities should respect when deciding to subject the provision of short-term rental services to registration and authorisation requirements or other conditions, to ensure that such rules respect the Single Market principles (i.e., justification, proportionality, and nondiscrimination), and as such are not overly-restrictive or burdensome and fully respect the principle of subsidiarity, for example in relation to urban planning rules.

Examples of questions asked within the contribution form

What do you consider to be the main benefits generated by short-term rental overall? (multiple replies possible)

  • There are no benefits
  • It is an additional source of income for citizens
  • It is an alternative to more traditional accommodation offers
  • It caters to unfulfilled tourism needs (e.g. low-income tourists, (large) families)
  • It creates employment
  • It attracts visitors
  • It encourages investment in local services (e.g. housing, tourism, transport)
  • Other (please specify)

What do you consider to be the main drawbacks of short-term rental overall? (multiple replies possible)

  • There are no drawbacks
  • It increases the price of renting or buying housing in cities
  • It decreases the availability of housing for rent or sale in cities
  • It raises security issues (e.g. theft)
  • It increases nuisance for local residents
  • It has a negative economic impact on traditional accommodation providers (e.g. hotels)
  • Other (please specify)
  • Do you see merit in a more harmonised approach to host regishort-term rentalation schemes within the EU?
  • What would be the most appropriate way to facilitate the sharing of data by online booking platforms with public authorities:
  • If ‘peers’ and professional short-term rental hosts were to be treated differently, what 

should be the basis for the distinction? (multiple replies possible):

  • Whether or not the short-term rental activity is the main occupation of the host
  • Threshold based on the level of income generated by the short-term rental activity
  • The property rented out is a primary or secondary residence of the host
  • The number of rooms/apartments/houses rented out by the host
  • The number of nights the room/apartment/house is rented out per year
  • The number of guests that are hosted in the room/apartment/house

If you are an EU citizen, business, or group, you have until December 13 to make your opinion knowsN

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Rental Scale-Up

Thibault is the founder of Rental Scale-Up. He owns vacation rentals in St. Barths and Bali. He also leads innovative projects for companies within the vacation rental industry. Feel free to reach out to Thibaut Masson on Linkedin.

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