Almost three-quarters of Airbnb listings in Amsterdam may break council rules on holiday rentals, according to data obtained by DutchNews.nl from metrics site Insideairbnb.com.
Of the 11,300 Amsterdam properties on the website, 74% are listed as being available for more than the legal limit of 60 days per year. And, according to Insideairbnb.com, as many as four in 10 may be actually booked for more than the maximum period.
In February, city officials agreed to spend an extra €1m gathering facts about illegal rentals. However, research by DutchNews.nl shows that a lot of information is already available.
The Insideairbnb.com website shows that 25% of hosts list more than one property, and more than one in ten flats offered for rent are available to more than four guests at a time. Neither is permitted in the agreement the council signed with Airbnb in 2014.
Announcing the plan to begin a process known as ‘data scraping’ to find out if the rules are being broken last month, housing alderman Laurens Ivens said this is ‘a new and innovative method to combat illegal housing rental.’
‘With this new method of digital investigation we will change our approach from reactive to proactive,’ he said.
Last year the city council received 834 reports of illegal rentals via Airbnb and similar sites and issued fines and warnings to 268 home owners. Airbnb has also removed some 170 addresses from its website for breaking the rules.
However, the figures obtained by DutchNews.nl show thousands of homes are being rented out illegally. And despite indications that the rules are being widely flouted, city spokeswoman Janine Harbers told DutchNews.nl that the council will not press Airbnb to make more information available.
‘We accept Airbnb’s terms and conditions,’ said Harbers. ‘We think co-operation is better for everyone.’
Amsterdam also accepts Airbnb’s position on tourist tax, which it agreed to collect on behalf of the city in 2014. Last October the website said it expects to hand over €5.5m to Amsterdam city council for 2015 – without providing details about rental income.
This would indicate Airbnb’s total income was over €110m, or an average of just under €10,000 per property.
The reluctance of city officials to question Airbnb may derive from the agreement signed between the city and Airbnb in 2014. This agreement explicitly states: ‘The parties agree they will communicate positively about the co-operation agreed upon in this MOU (Memorandum of Understanding).’
‘This is hiding information,’ Sicco Behrens, chairman of the short-stay landlords’ association ASAPNL told DutchNews.nl. ‘If something bad happened in an Airbnb apartment, if an apartment burned down – and I know for a fact this has happened – the city won’t say the apartment was rented on Airbnb.’
Even when the rules are followed, Behrens sees the city’s relationship with Airbnb as overly generous.
‘It surprises me what they allow Airbnb to do,’ he said. ‘A professional operator who runs a business and is aware of [potential] dangers can do less than an individual who rents out his apartment to a stranger [on Airbnb]. It’s bizarre.’
On Friday, city alderman Laurens Ivens said the city is looking to reduce the amount of nights home owners can rent out their property via the popular rental site. The cut from 60 days a year will be ‘difficult’ legally but is definitely an option, Ivens said.
A spokesman for Airbnb told DutchNews.nl that the figures provided by InsideAirbnb are misleading.
‘We never comment on public scrapes of our site because they use inaccurate information to make misleading assumptions about our community. We are good partners for the city and work together to support regular people who share their homes to pay the bills and clamp down on bad actors,’ the spokesman said.
The spokesman said Airbnb’s ‘progressive agreement’ with Amsterdam has provisions to remove any illegal hotels brought to the company’s attention. Unlike other accommodation providers and platforms, Airbnb meets city officials regularily to discuss ways of promoting responsible tourism in Amsterdam, the spokesman said.
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