Airbnb in Germany: The Debate Continues

Souce: Ansgar Koreng CC

Berlin Wedding Source: Ansgar Koreng

Every year, millions of tourists flock to Germany, a number that has been increasing year over year for over a decade. Most choose to stay in traditional forms of accommodation, but an increasing number are renting rooms directly from locals through websites like Airbnb. This has caused to a backlash against the site in many cities with limited housing, such as Berlin, Hamburg and Frankfurt, and led to a regulatory pushback that has seen the outlawing of unregistered vacation homes and the creation of compliance forces authorized to enter suspected illegal housing without a warrant. But despite this, Airbnb continues to grow in popularity, gaining new listing every day. So, you’ve got an apartment with an extra room, or you’re out of town regularly on business. Should you list your apartment on Airbnb, and what do you need to consider before doing so?

Since 2008, when it was founded to offer desperate convention-goers cheap accommodation and networking opportunities, Airbnb has taken the world by storm. It now has listings in over 190 countries and 34,000 cities across the world. An important part of the “sharing economy,” the website acts as a middleman between hosts and guests, and has become wildly popular due to its simple interface and abundant offerings.

Source: Airbnb

Source: Airbnb

Originally, the concept behind the website was for private renters to offer their rooms on a temporary basis, a few days or a week, but as the service has grown, many owners have seen the value in listing apartments or homes as vacation rentals, with daily rates three times or more what a normal renter would pay on a monthly contract. This has led to criticisms of the site for contributing to the gentrification that had already plagued many larger German cities for a generation.

As a result, much like app-based taxi service Uber, Airbnb has had trouble finding its footing with German officialdom. Although thousands of apartments and homes can currently be found on the site, many cities are pushing back and have outlawed the practices that have made Airbnb and other rental services so successful.

In Berlin, the authorities have taken an aggressive stance towards the development of commercial Airbnb operations in the housing market, and now regularly send out teams from the “Division of Misappropriated Apartments” to make sure that homes are being illegally let to tourists. This follows in the wake of similar policies in Munich, Hamburg and Frankfurt, all of which have seen massive increased in the numbers of illegal rental listings on the internet.

Thomas Wolf,

Frankfurt Source: Thomas Wolf,

For average homeowners and renters who use the site, efforts by city governments are unlikely to lead to any problems, and will in fact likely be to the benefit of the average Airbnb’er. Commercial operators on the site tend to drive down returns for average listers by saturating the market and raise the overall rents by limiting the number of available apartments. Most authorities, such as those in Frankfurt, have also explicitly stated that they are not interested in policing rooms let by residents for short-term or temporary stays.

Renters considering offering their apartment on Airbnb should first check their rental agreement to make sure it allows them to sublet. If a room is sublet without authorization in the rental agreement, the renter could face legal action. Depending on the city, there may also be specific rules that cause an apartment being sublet on a regular basis to fall into the category of a vacation rental. If you are concerned that this might affect you, contact your local authorities before listing your apartment.

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