The big city renter’s battle with Airbnb and government

Written by Deirdre Roche

Illustration by Shazmeen Khalid

Looking for somewhere to stay for a weekend trip to Dublin? Easy. Looking for something a bit more long-term? Not so easy. 

Over the past few years there has been a huge increase in the use of Airbnb. There can be no denying Airbnb saw a gap in the market for holiday makers and business individuals, but the long-term effects Airbnb has had on rental markets across Europe has been immense, making it harder than ever for those looking to rent in their home city. 

The constant and steady migration of people into capital cities across Europe is straining rental markets because landlords are forgoing the renting of their properties for long periods of time, instead buying into the short-term lettings industry which pushes long-term renters out.

Apartments which would normally be perfect for young professionals and students are being taken off the rental market and beginning to pop up on Airbnb’s website.

But the fault does not lie with Airbnb alone. Since Airbnb has started operating in more and more countries, the governments of these countries have been slow to legislate against them. There is more incentive for landlords to charge higher prices for shorter rental periods then run the risk of renting to someone who might not pay rent, or damage the property. Further to this point, landlords don’t have to enter into lengthy rental contracts, they don’t have to deal with long-term maintenace issues or pay large amounts of tax and insurance.

Allowing people to rent for periods less than 90 days means that, generally, landlords can earn more and aren’t bound by the same laws they would be if they were renting.

(Source: Carl Court/Getty Images)

Young renters looking at leaving their parental home for the first time face a large number of challenges, from unaffordable rent, to having to move to locations further out of the city where prices are cheaper, to houses being unsafe to live in or having more than the legal number of tenants. Trying to find a place to rent can seem like a minefield and Airbnb apartments are just one mine in that field. 

The reality is that companies like Airbnb are not the sole reason for the housing crises across Europe and the world. For years, governments have put profits before people, turning a blind eye to the nightmare that is trying to rent, so one has to wonder why all the blame is being put on Airbnb.

It feels as though governments have been all talk and very little action when it comes to helping those made vulnerable by the rental market. This is why young renters are having an increasingly difficult time renting, because they are now being forced into rental situations which are dangerous and often illegal. 

New York Times article

However, not all landlords are like this. Many are fair, reliable and rent their properties at an affordable market price. But with the cost of living ever increasing and many governments failing to act to help renters, landlords are left with no choice but to increase rent to subsidise their income or pay the mortgage on the rental property faster. 

When owning a home is a reality many young people may never face, what options do they have other than hope they get lucky with a good landlord amidst the bad ones?

Getting a mortgage isn’t the same as what it was 10 years ago. Banks are a lot stricter, deposit percentages have gone up and so too has the interest on mortgages. People who have the ability to pay a mortgage and buy a house are being prevented from doing so, which perpetually forces them into staying in rental properties, thus reducing the amount of available and affordable housing.

What should be a natural process of renting to saving to buying a house to moving out of a rental is no longer the reality for young people. There is no easy fix for the rental crisis cities are experiencing, it has to be a collaborative effort between government, landlords and renters to find long-term solutions to these problems. 

So, what is being done to stop the spread of Airbnb rentals and what protections are being put in place for renters? Take Ireland as an example.

Eoghan Murphy (Source: Irish Examiner)

In 2018, Irish Minister for Housing, Eoghan Murphy, announced plans to change the law and regulate short-term lettings and home-sharing, such as Airbnb, for tourists and visitors. The new legislation being proposed was that homeowners can let their primary residence on a short-term basis for a maximum of 90 days in a year and up to 14 days at a time.

Murphy added that landlords will have to apply for planning permission to their local authority to use the property as a short-term let. The outcome of their applications will be based on guidance from the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government. In areas of high housing demand, it is unlikely that permission would be granted. 

Legislation like this is being proposed all across Europe, where more and more holiday makers are looking to Airbnb as a better way to get an authentic experience of a city. At this point in time the only thing renters can do is keep looking for rental properties that fit their criteria and hope that governments begin to take the rental crisis seriously and put their actions where their words are. 

Author: Deirdre Roche

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