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You might struggle finding Airbnb pads in Berlin

Tourists can no longer rent out entire houses or units in Germany on Airbnb and other private property rental platforms. Picture: AFP / John MacDougall

Staff writers and wiresnews.com.au

TOURISTS in Berlin are going to have a much tougher time finding short-term apartments to rent after a massive crackdown on Airbnb and similar services in the German capital.

In a bid to address the city’s housing affordability and supply crisis, Berlin has enacted a controversial new law that restricts entire apartments from being listed on online platforms such as Airbnb, Wimdu and 9 Flats — and only allows for the renting out of rooms.

Airbnb hosts who continue to rent our entire apartments or houses can face fines of $150,000.

The Zweckentfremdungsverbotlaw was passed in 2014 but its two-year transition period officially timed-out on the weekend.

It is already responsible for wiping out about 40 per cent of Airbnb listings in Berlin, according to The Local.

Authorities hope the law will ease pressure on property supply and wind down skyrocketing property prices in the city.

Rent prices in Berlin rose 56 per cent between 2009 and 2014, although they are still considered fairly low compared to other major European cities at about $15 a square metre this year, according to figures from AFP.

Berlin’s head of urban development Andreas Geisel described the law as “a necessary and sensible instrument against the housing shortage in Berlin”.

Authorities in Berlin have been worried about the rising price of real estate across the city and hope the restrictions on short-term rentals will keep housing affordable for locals. Picture: iStock

Authorities in Berlin have been worried about the rising price of real estate across the city and hope the restrictions on short-term rentals will keep housing affordable for locals. Picture: iStockSource:Supplied

“I am absolutely determined to return such misappropriated apartments to the people of Berlin and to newcomers,” he said.

Renting out whole apartments for short stays on Airbnb or similar platforms was seen as more profitable to Berlin’s investors than having long-term tenants.

The city’s hotel industry has also claimed to be taking a hit from the popularity of services like Airbnb.

The law has been met with a mixed response.

Tim Boening, 41, who rents out a loft in Berlin’s trendy Kreuzberg district, said he wasn’t shocked by the new law, given he had seen practices that “should be stopped”.

He cited “the nice couple with two small apartments who move in together into a bigger place and keep the two apartments to rent them out on Airbnb.

“I don’t think that’s good, it should be stopped,” he told AFP, adding those apartments were not available to “normal” tenants.

But there has also been a huge push back from Airbnb renters.

A woman, 48, who would not provide her real name, said she had long rented out four apartments near the centre of Berlin through Airbnb.

She thought the city was making Berliners pay for its failed housing policy while serving the needs of the hotel industry.

“This is unfair, we are forbidden from doing our work,” she told AFP.

She said the end result was that tourists would be included to stay away.

The woman also hit back at Airbnb hosts being encouraged to dob-in people who flout the new law, saying “in Germany, of all places, maybe we should reconsider this kind of thing”.

Airbnb Germany said “Berliners want clear and simple rules for home sharing, so they can continue to share their own home with guests”.

The service offered by Airbnb differed from other types of accommodation and helped “many Berliners pay their rent,” spokesman Julian Trautwein told AFP.

“We will continue to encourage Berlin policymakers to listen to their citizens and to follow the example of other big cities such as Paris, London, Amsterdam or Hamburg and create new, clear rules for normal people who are sharing their own homes.”

Wimdu, another popular peer-to-peer property rental company, has filed a lawsuit against the law, arguing it breached the constitution of the city-state of Berlin.

The owners of start-up 9 Flats said they had sold the brand to a Singapore company.

“We face a law in Berlin that would drive us into bankruptcy,” 9 Flats boss Roman Bach told newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

The law has also driven several property owners who use Airbnb to form the “Apartments Allianz” to push back against the charge they were evil capitalists growing rich on the backs of fellow Berliners.

Rather, they said, they have offered “an attractive, varied range of beautiful and individual apartments”, and have through their personal hospitality “significantly contributed to a positive image for Berlin”.

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