April 14. 2024. 6:56

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EU countries speed up position on short-term rental rulebook


EU ministers have reached a common position on new rules for Airbnb, Booking.com and short-term rental platforms at break-neck speed, according to documents obtained by EURACTIV.

The Committee of Permanent Representatives, which brings together member states’ ambassadors, is due to endorse the position on the draft law on Friday, paving the way for ministerial approval at a meeting of business ministers on 2 March.

The European Commission presented the legislative proposal last November, seeking to streamline the registration process for hosts across the EU and oblige travel platforms to share data with public authorities.

EU Commission presents new rules on short term rentals

The European Commission published a new regulation to streamline rental platforms’ operations and data-sharing practices across the EU’s single market, targeting the likes of Booking, Airbnb and Expedia.

Scope

The legislative proposal is set to regulate the booming short-term rental market, which has opened the door to enormous opportunities for hosts and tourists but has also led to the ‘touristification’ of city centres and reduced the availability of long-term rentals.

Where local authorities like the municipalities of Amsterdam and Barcelona have tried to intervene, they faced difficulties with enforcing the rules due to the lack of available data due to technical and regulatory constraints, in particular in relation to data protection rules.

The text clarifies that short-term rental can concern rooms in a host’s residence, but also entire dwellings on both land and water, meaning houseboats are covered by the regulation.

Administrative procedures

The draft regulation harmonises the registration process at national level, following which the public authority would issue a unique identifier for the accommodation that is rented, which allows tracking across different platforms, a phenomenon known as multi-listing.

EU countries were keen to distinguish this registration process from the authorisation procedure. Public authorities might request the hosts to provide supporting documentation, including the authorisation, as long as that requirement is in line with EU law.

If the authority finds reason to doubt the information provided, it might request the registration numbers and the online platform to remove the listings. The authority can withdraw their registration number if hosts fail to rectify the information.

Available information

New wording has been added requiring that the information on the rights of the hosts with regards to the authorisation scheme, notably possible redress mechanisms in case of dispute, should be readily available for hosts in line with the EU’s services directive.

Similarly, member states must provide all relevant information for the provision of short-term rental services on their national territory, including the registration procedure and the conditions for accessing or putting on the market rental accommodations.

Ex-post checks

Another point for discussion among the national representatives was the relationship between the draft law and the recently adopted Digital Services Act (DSA). A core principle of the DSA is that economic operators cannot be expected to monitor all the content on their platforms.

“Short-term rental platforms should only be required to make reasonable efforts to carry out random checks through the use of functionalities offered by the Single Digital Entry Point,” the compromise text reads.

European countries would have to establish Single Digital Entry Points, a national centralised system freely accessible and machine-readable to allow the platforms to conduct these random checks of the registration numbers.

Representatives of the national entry points would form an EU coordination group to exchange best practices, promote interoperability and standard formats, as well as how to conduct automated checks, including on all listings and registration numbers.

In other words, the idea is to enable Airbnb and the likes to set up automated verification on all their listings voluntarily.

Expectations high over delayed EU proposal on short-term rentals

The European Commission’s proposal to regulate the short-term rental market, dominated by travel platforms like Booking and Airbnb, has seen repeated delays and is subject to a number of hurdles EU policymakers will have to solve.

Rental data

The travel platforms will be required to regularly transmit data about hosts’ activities. The Council specified that the data provided should reflect the ‘in-fact situation’, meaning eventual changes to the original bookings would have to be considered.

The scope of activity data was also enlarged to include personal data. In particular, the full address of the accommodation has been added to the data that must be provided, alongside the number of guests, registration number and URL of the listing.

Competent authorities

The EU countries redefined competent authorities not only as those responsible for enforcing registration procedures or collecting data on short-term rentals but also those responsible for ensuring the application of the country’s rules to rental services.

Access to the information obtained by the platforms will be possible for public authorities that are responsible for monitoring compliance with the registration process and enforcing short-term rental rules.

This data could be shared with policymakers, researchers and innovators. However, when the data is shared, it should not be possible to identify individual accommodations and hosts, such as the address and URL of the listings.

A partial exception is made for policymakers, provided that appropriate data protection safeguards are implemented. Similar protections are required for data shared with national or regional statistical offices.

[Edited by Benjamin Fox]