Berlin is cracking down on short-term apartment rentals—and Airbnb is taking a hit

Berlin real estate
Berlin real estate
Image: AP Photo / Markus Schreiber
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Starting today (May 1) landlords in Berlin hoping to rent their apartments out to short-term visitors may have to rethink their options.

A new law has come into effect that levies a €100,000 ($113,000) fine on landlords renting their properties out for short-term stays.

Originally passed in 2014, the Law on the Prohibition of Misuse of Housing was triggered by public concern over a lack of affordable apartments in the German capital, as well as complaints of noise from tourists spending their vacations in short-term rentals.

The new regulations are already starting to have an effect on short-stay rental platforms such as Airbnb. According to Feargus O’Sullivan at CityLab, “in February, Airbnb listed 11,000 entire apartments for short-term rental in [Berlin]. By March the number dropped to 6,700.”

“Berlin’s housing law is complex and unclear, and the government has released conflicting and confusing statements on how it will be implemented,” Airbnb told us. “This is bad news for Berlin and regular locals who occasionally share their homes to afford living costs in the city they love.”

Residential rents are highly regulated in Germany, a country that has some of the lowest home ownership rates in the developed world. Using a tool known as the mietspiegel, rent increases are generally limited to 20% within three years. Short-term rentals also often present a more profitable option for landlords than seeking out longer-term tenants. One result of this is that “vacation apartments have taken over large chunks of the most desirable streets, and permanent residents have been frozen out of the market,” according to O’Sullivan.

Today’s law change is not an outright ban on short-term vacation rentals, however. There are a few exceptions, as outlined by CityLab:

People will still be able to rent out rooms in their homes, as long as the rooms don’t cover more than 50 percent of the property’s floor space. Landlords will also be able to apply for official permits to rent out entire apartments short-term from the local borough. Their applications must include a convincing explanation of why they need to rent the apartment short-term, which will be scrutinized and quite possibly rejected by the borough.

“We will continue to encourage the government to listen to the people of Berlin and follow the lead of other major cities that have introduced clear, simple and progressive rules to support regular local residents who share their homes to pay the bills,” Airbnb said.

Update: This post was updated to include comment from Airbnb.