Paris has made a database for people to root out their neighbors’ illegal Airbnbs

Airbnb contest winners Wu Hao (R) and Tang Di of China pose before spending a night among sharks in an underwater structure installed in the…
Airbnb contest winners Wu Hao (R) and Tang Di of China pose before spending a night among sharks in an underwater structure installed in the…
Image: Reuters/Charles Platiau
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Silicon Valley loves to use data to build and optimize businesses. Now the city of Paris is turning data on one of the Valley’s darlings, Airbnb, to root out rentals that aren’t registered with the city.

The city requires landlords who rent out a second home, or rent out a primary residence more than four months of the year, to register it as a commercial property or face a fine of up to €25,000 ($28,000). It has now published a public dataset of properties that are registered for use as an Airbnb. There are only 125 of them.

By contrast, there are more than 41,000 Airbnb listings in Paris, according to data scraped by the website Inside Airbnb. (Airbnb itself doesn’t regularly disclose listings data.) A Guardian investigation last March found that more than 30% of primary homes in Paris were rented out for more than 120 days a year and more than 40% of properties were commercial listings. According to a Wall Street Journal report last year (paywall), Airbnb said only 17% of its hosts rented out a property that isn’t their primary residence. Even if so, that’s still a vast majority that are unregistered.

Airbnb rentals are also subject to a tourist tax of €0.83 per person per night, worth a few million euros annually. But Airbnb imposes and collects that on all its rentals, regardless of whether they are registered with the city.

Last year Airbnb said Paris had more listings than any other city, and Parisians have complained about Airbnb-dwelling tourists appearing in their neighborhoods in increasing numbers. The new database, according to (link in French) the mayor’s chief of staff, is intended to ”cause a sort of burst of civic conscience, and that people will start following the rules of their own accord, without waiting to be called out by their neighbors.”

We asked Airbnb about the vast discrepancy between registered and unregistered properties. It didn’t address the question but emphasized that, taken as a whole, most of its listings are for occasional rentals that don’t break the law. ”The actions announced by City Hall today are confusing and misleading, and refer only to properties shared for more than 120 days,” it says. “We too oppose unwelcome commercial operators and want to work with Paris on progressive measures to promote the rules and build an open, transparent and responsible home sharing community.”

Paris isn’t the only city putting pressure on Airbnb. Berlin is cracking down, introducing a fine of up to €100,000 on hosts using their properties for short-term rentals. In San Francisco, Airbnb and other home-rental platforms will be liable for fines of $1,000 per day per listing, SFGate reported, if hosts don’t register their properties with the city.