Amsterdam, other cities sound alarm after EU court Airbnb legal advice

Amsterdam is one of 10 European cities which have asked the EU for more support in their campaign to reduce holiday rentals via websites such as Airbnb. The cities have sounded the alarm now the advocate general of the European Court of Justice has said Airbnb should be seen as an information provider and cannot be held responsible for landlords’ compliance with holiday letting rules. Airbnb, the advocate general said in April, should be seen as an online service connecting potential guests with hosts offering short-term accommodation. European Court judges normally follow their advisers’ non-binding opinions. 'Homes needed for residents to live and work in our cities, will become more and more considered as a market for renting out to tourists,' the 10 cities, which includes Barcelona and Bordeaux, say in a statement. 'We think that cities are best placed to understand their residents’ needs. They have always been allowed to organize local activities through urban planning or housing measures. The AG seems to imply that this will simply no longer be possible in the future when it comes to internet giants.' In particular the cities are concerned that the AG suggests enforcing local rules would be up to the councils themselves. They would have to 'identify anonymous addresses (data held by platforms), which places an excessive burden on public funds,' the cities said. In March Amsterdam's housing chief Laurens Ivens broke off talks with Airbnb, and HomeAway/Expedia on controlling holiday rental excesses had broken down and that the council would be taking its own measures to stop illegal home rentals to tourists.  More >

Housing corps limit rent rise to 1.6%

Most housing corporation tenants will see their rent rise by no more than the rate of inflation this July, corporation umbrella group Aedes said on Monday. One in five housing corporations will put up their rents by more than the official rate of inflation of 1.6%, while 40% will stick to below that figure, Aedes said. The corporations and tenants lobby group Woonbond reached a deal at the end of last year to limit rent rises to inflation from 2020, but this year's limited increases show landlords are already sticking to the new rules, Aedes said. Dutch housing corporations own some 2.4 million houses, of which all but around 5% fall into the social housing sector with rents of below €710 a month. Some four million people currently live in property owned by one of the country’s 300 housing corporations, who own around one third of the country's total housing stock.  More >

Fewer mortgages signed in Q1

The Dutch mortgage market shrunk 14% in the first three months of this year, when compared to the same period in 2018, consultancy IG&H said in its latest quarterly report. The number of people switching mortgage also fell, although the average amount borrowed continues to rise. In total, mortgage providers extended almost 69,000 mortgages with total value of €22bn in the first quarter of 2019. The average mortgage taken out was €316,000, a rise of 5.2% on a year ago. The drop is the biggest since 2013 and is due to the overheated housing market plus the problems facing first-time buyers, IG&H said.  More >

Short stay firm in btw fraud: Volkskrant

Tax ministry inspectors and the police have raided the offices of one of the Netherlands biggest short stay housing agencies following a tip-off from the tax authorities, the Volkskrant said on Thursday. In addition, three people working for the Holland2Stay group were arrested on suspicion of fraud involving rental contracts, allowing landlords to avoid value-added tax, the paper said. The raids in Eindhoven and Den Bosch took place at the beginning of April. According to the Volkskrant, the alleged fraud is based giving successive short contracts to the same person, allowing the landlord to claim back more btw. Landlords can charge 9% (was 6%) value-added tax over the rent for short term furnished accommodation. And if they have converted a former office block into short stay apartments, they can deduct the 21% on the cost of building work from their rental income. But this is only possible if the rental contract is for less than six months. Holland2Stay founder Zjef Bogers told the Volkskrant the company had not been involved in falsifying rental contracts. 'Why would we?,' he said. 'We are a housing agency, and don't collect the btw. We are completely independent.' The tax office estimates the scam has cost it €350,000 in lost btw. The Volkskrant said the identity of the property owner has not yet been made public, but the building or buildings concerned are said to be in the south of the country. Holland2Stay, which was founded 11 years ago, now operates more than 2,000 apartments in the Eindhoven region to international students and workers on short-term contracts. It also offers homes in other cities, including Rotterdam, Delft and Amsterdam, the paper said.  More >

Eindhoven housing rents rise 10%

Average rents for new housing contracts have again risen less than 5% but are still shooting up in big cities such as Rotterdam, Utrecht and Eindhoven, rental housing agency Pararius said on Wednesday. In Eindhoven, for example, average prices rose almost 10% year on year, to €970 for a 65 square metre flat while in Rotterdam rents are up 8.6%.  In Amsterdam, by contrast, prices rose 3.6%, taking the average rent for a 65-square metre apartment to €1,513. Nevertheless, the cost of renting a home in the cities has risen less than in the peripheral towns such as Haarlem, Almere, Delft and Schiedam, Pararius said. In Schiedam, for example, rents have shot up 20% year on year, in Haarlem over 11% City officials plan to get tough on rents in Amsterdam's non-rent controlled sector and want to introduce a maximum, based on the value of the property. But Pararius director Jasper de Groot said the measures are 'symbolic' and will only benefit a small group of rentants. 'The underlying problem, the major shortage in mid-market rentals, will only get bigger,' he said. 'Rather than stimulate investors to build for this sector, the council is frightening them off. That will lead to there being fewer homes in the non-rental controlled sector and further rent increases.'  More >