Airbnb: Do Salvation for Cities Tourist or Nightmare for Its Inhabitants?

30,000 euros. That’s the amount that Airbnb has had to pay to the Generalitat de Catalunya, to consider is that through this web are marketed illegal apartments. A serious violation, for which the catalan Government stipulates a fine amounting to that amount of money. And sanctions could not end there because they have called for the cessation of their activities. But let’s start at the beginning…

In 2007, Joe Gebbia and Brian Chesky passed wrong each month to pay the rent of your apartment in San Francisco. By that time, he was going to hold an international event of design in the city and most hotels had hung the poster of “there are no rooms available”. The two friends then saw a business opportunity: why not offer your salon for to stay any attendees and step to earn a little money?

They bought a few mattresses inflatables, and during the weekend, they had three guests who arrived to pay 1,000 euros in total. Chesky and Gebbia had not only found a way to pay their rent without difficulty, but it also looked at future business. In 2008, and with this same idea, presented AirBed & Breakfast (by that air mattresses). Initially, the idea was to provide accommodation during events that saturated hotels in a given region, but soon grow.

Initially, Airbnb fostered sofas or beds free of housing rental

In 2009 they shortened the name, giving rise to the current Airbnb, and one of the most important changes occurred in the company: “air mattress” in the living room were left behind and for the first time is allowed trade with other spaces within the platform, entire rooms and even flats and apartments. What had begun as a platform of “sofa bed” was jump to the more traditional accommodation and the conflict began with the hotel industry.

Airbnb and accommodations without regular

Airbnb currently offers its services in 192 countries and more than 33,000 cities. And, despite its spectacular growth, in some places are finding with numerous legal problems to offer their services. In New York, for example, are of judgment at trial to be considered this platform as “unfair competition”. There have even come to fine any customers to stay in a House reserved through this website. In Spain, although we have still not reached those ends, we could be about to see something similar.

As in the case of Uber, with the arrival of Airbnb has produced a clash with the hospitality industry, who complain about practically the same: they require them to comply with certain regulations and have obligations. However, the people who rent apartments through Airbnb, not. The same applies to the fiscal issues: would declare incomes who rent their house through the portal? Are they freelancers or companies, with the consequent obligations that this entails?

Rent houses to tourists is not something new: I still remember when I, years ago, I was going on vacation with my family to any of them. However, Internet has become the perfect showcase for those who not only want to get a little money extra but that, directly, they want to take advantage of legal loopholes to set up his own business. In the confidential is echoed not long ago in the case of an American who rented a floor specifically to then lease it through Airbnb. And Yes, earn enough money with this.

Can anyone rent your home in Spain?

If you want to rent your property on Airbnb, check your Autonomous Community legislation

And here came to one of the main controversies: If someone wants to rent your home, can do it freely? What obligations does it meet? With regard to the regulation of these weekly rentals, from a year ago was removed from the rental law and went to be in the hands of the autonomous communities. Do you mean this? That what happens in Madrid does not have to be the same thing that happens in Barcelona. Catalonia, Andalusia and Madrid are working on specific legislation to end, according to them, this “economy”.

But what responsibility does the website itself? In legal journal made an excellent analysis of the current situation. A web page that collects content from others would not have problems sow that “do not have actual knowledge that the activity or information that refer or recommend is unlawful or harms goods or rights of third parties liable for compensation, or if they do, act with diligence to eliminate or disable the corresponding link”.

From Airbnb, and already in 2012, they insist that”users be informed of legislation to respect it, since it depends on many occasions of local agencies”. Which, translated, means that they turn a blind eye to not be in specific cases where there are authorities of means. It is enough a warning light on its website for considering Airbnb is doing everything that is in its power to prevent “unauthorized” housing?

Our colleagues from El Blog Salmón explain to other procedures which, as a minimum, would have to comply with to Taxes referred to: high in Hacienda, the subjection to VAT of leases, the corresponding liquidations of VAT, income tax and, even, can quote in autonomous. All this you should add different permissions and fees that each autonomous community may impose.

The problems of Airbnb in Catalonia

As we said at the beginning, Catalonia was one of the pioneer communities in the Regulation of vacation rentals and it condemned Airbnb to pay a fine of 30,000 euros. “The rules of the game should be the same for everyone, both for traditional for the collaborative economy business models,” he said a few days ago the Minister of enterprise and employment, Felip Puig, to justify this decision.

What are those rules? In Catalonia they are quite reasonable although little acceptable for individuals He rented only their own home occasionally:

The standard adopted by Catalonia requires that any owner who wants to rent your property for short periods, you must apply for the registration in its town hall, must have minimum conditions (quite reasonable by the way, there is no problem), but also has points really harmful for the majority of homeowners given that equates them to entrepreneurs, forcing them to raise and enter the tourist rate forcing them to issuing invoices, notifying tenants nothing despicable to the autonomous and a series of documentary requirements. (more in El Blog Salmón)

In Catalonia they discard does not block access to the website of Airbnb failure to comply regulation

While Airbnb still has not made changes to the service offered in Barcelona, beyond of the own fine, Puig ensures that it has encouraged them to follow their activity only with the tourist accommodation that is registered in the register of tourism of Catalonia. Other accommodation, according to the Minister, must be eliminated. And if they do not? It is still early to know how this will end up but he made that Puig had recognized that they have skills for restrict access to Airbnb from any IP autonomous community it predicts nothing good.

Besides going against Airbnb, Puig confirmed that they had opened 18 records to websites with at least 8 of them of a sanctioning nature. But not only go against the pages, but also against the own homes: more than 100 are being investigated and it has come to raise 500,000 euros of fines.

From Airbnb lamenting the decision Generalitat: “Barcelona should be kept at the forefront of innovation, but it is not so. Disappointed see a resolution which affects a number of companies and that also slows the advance of this city”. They boast, in addition, have generated 4,000 jobs and leaving 128 million euros in the city in just one year.

The “massification” of the tourism in Barcelona

“Not allowed tourists”, painted as a protest in grace (image: Jennifer Woodar Maderazo)

In many of the cities that offer accommodation, Airbnb assures visitors that most hosts offer their own homes. In Barcelona they omitted this part because, simply, it is not so. While in London, 80% of available housing are the main houses of their owners, 85% in Sydney and 87% in Amsterdam, There are no official figures for Barcelona.

Tom Slee was published a few weeks ago a study on his blog where he claimed that only 75% of hosts rented a single housing in the city of Barcelona. This figure is significantly lower than that of other countries. Slee went even further: “most of Airbnb offers comes from people renting over homeownership and I estimate that 60% of the benefit of Airbnb comes from those who listed multiple dwellings”.

Where just the collaborative economy and start the business?

Collaborative economy or a group of people hiding behind it to do business by skipping the regulation? This is precisely what critics from the Spanish Confederation of hotels and tourist accommodation (CEHAT). Its Secretary General, Ramón Estalella, explained to Teknautas that “collaborative economy is one in which an individual is put in contact with another to Exchange something free of charge. Something that does not occur with pages that rented private apartments”.

Why does this occur? In 2013, the catalan Government claimed that there were more illegal tourist beds than legal in your community: nearly one million of the first facing the just 600,000 of the latter. It is no coincidence: Barcelona is one of the favorite destinations tourists from all over the world, and has been so for several years. In 2007, public entitled Barcelona feared to die of success and offered statistics on the occupation of the city of Barcelona. The Barcelona tourist office said, in 2013, have hosted more than 7.5 million tourists in Barcelona.

So many people to visit a city may seem positive, because these tourists leave benefit between 18 and 22 million euros every day. However, many residents do not see it as well. The documentary Bye Bye Barcelona they precisely reflected the views of these people, who are living day to day in the city. “80% of my Apple business have become souvenir shops where they sell Mexican hats and t-shirts in the boat. Caliu (identity, essence) of neighborhood has been lost. Do I have to renounce my neighborhood because they only think of the tourist? “, said a neighbour”.

Tourists in Barcelona Beach Road (image: zoetnet)

As reflected in this documentary, some residents have long complained of the mass tourism. This not only creates problems in the daily life of the inhabitants of always, but it has other side effects that can harm them. Among others, they mention the inflation of prices, the decrease in public spaces and the amount, increasing, tourist flats.

Airbnb does not help this last: what would happen if enough people begin to do as the New York of which before we we did ECHO renting floors of the Center then back to rent to tourists almost astronomical amounts? This is another of the concerns which have in San Francisco: the State Prosecutor noted how in the midst of the crisis, the one people use Airbnb for illegal rentals can do the legal rents and long term price rise considerably.

To assess this impact, Airbnb asked an independent study which will investigate the consequences of its impact in New York. According to this report, the impact is minimal since some owners consider that the rent of a few days, while it offers a greater economic impact, is not worth the effort involved. Others do not believe this so positive view offering Airbnb. In echo the statements of Senator Liz Krueger, of New York:

“We have the highest rent in the country and lower availability. We have a real problem that people try to live in this city… And, on top of all that, Airbnb and others are doing resulting in a significant decrease of apartments that it was assumed they were going to be for the residents of this city”

Airbnb, also problems in Madrid

New York, San Francisco, Barcelona and Madrid. Airbnb is not having much luck in Spain, and is that Madrid announced in July the new decree on regulation of tourist apartments and timeshare homes. It states that all vacation rental housing must be registered in a registry and the stay may not be less than 5 nights. At the moment, Airbnb has not acted on the matter.

And, despite everything, he seems to have future

While it is true that Airbnb is having some other legal stumbling, the truth is that you are not having as many problems as über. In fact, last April received an investment of 450 million dollars and is valued at 10,000 million, one of the startups of the moment. Will its business model affect to rent and prices in the medium or long term? It is still early to answer this question and, as we see, there are opinions for all tastes. And to think it all began with a simple air mattress…