Short-term lets: consultation annexes
Research annexes to supplement the short-term lets consultation paper on a regulatory framework for Scotland.
Annex B: Regulation Outwith Scotland
Annex B: Regulation Outwith Scotland
The collaborative economy accommodation platforms increasingly being used by the short-term rental sector are part of a wave of 'disruptive technologies' which – partly or mainly due to their novelty - often operate in legal grey zones (Wachsmuth, Kerrigan et al. 2017). Many areas across the world have already or are planning to implement regulations on platforms offering peer-to-peer accommodation. Each country is different and the implemented regulations are affected by contextual factors, such as the housing market, tourism economy, population density and local land use law.
This section provides an overview of the regulations regarding short-term lets implemented elsewhere. It is not exhaustive and does not include all areas that have regulated peer-to-peer accommodation. The regulations mentioned in this section refer to all Airbnb-like platforms operating in the regulated territory. Some countries regulate at country-level, such as Denmark and Greece, while other areas have the power to regulate at municipality level, such as Amsterdam, Barcelona and London.
In the main, regulations tend to focus on placing limits on short-term let hosts, such as on the number of nights they can let for, the number of listings they can have or the income they can generate. Some cities/countries have also tried to ensure that short-term let properties and hosts can be properly accounted for, through registration and data sharing requirements. Other cities/countries have tried to prevent properties from leaving the residential housing stock, through requiring a 'change of use' license, limiting the number of licences granted or restricting change of use permits.
Although the specific details differ from location to location, the regulations that have been employed can be broadly categorised as below:
- Limiting the number of nights (cumulatively and/or consecutively) the property can be rented for. This may mean there is a blanket ban in renting out a property once a certain number of days is reached. for example, in Ireland there is a ban of renting out an entire primary home for more than 90 days cumulatively and for more than 14 days at a time. However in some places renting a property for more than a certain amount of days means that different rules apply, such as in Reykjavik where properties rented out for more than 90 days require a license. This might vary based on whether the rented out property is the primary or secondary residence of the host.
- Limiting the number of listings each host can advertise, according to the principle 'one host, one home'. As above, this can be a blanket ban, or mean that different rules apply over a certain threshold.
- Applying taxation on the income from renting out a short-term let and/or a Tourism tax, often collected and remitted directly via the Airbnb platform.
- Requiring hosts to register their property. Hosts are usually required to display their registration numbers on any adverts for the property.
- Requiring hosts to apply for planning permission or a licence to change the use of a property from residential to commercial or business. These permits are usually linked to local planning authorities, which may apply limits on the number of permits issued, especially in areas with high housing demand.
- Requiring the host to live in the property during the rental period, effectively banning full-time whole property rentals.
- Requiring platforms to share data about hosts, such as the number of properties, or level of income they are receiving.
Table 11 shows which categories the regulations adopted by different cities/countries fall into. Please note that there is a great deal of variation within each category, and the remainder of this Annex provides details of the specific regulations adopted in each location.
As shown in Table 11, almost all of the areas we have examined have included a limit on the number of nights a property can be rented out for, either a total limit or a limit after which the property becomes classed as a business. Common regulations include registration, need for a license and/or planning permission and a form of taxation on short-term lets. It also appears to be quite common for cities/countries to adopt a variety of regulations, rather than relying on just one.
The 'Other' category shown in Table 11 includes the following regulations:
- Short-term lets being subjected to quality standards, such as natural lighting and heating
- A limit on services provided by hosts, e.g. provide only bed linen and no other kind of 'hotel services', such as breakfast
- Share data on short-term lets guests with local police
- A ban on social houses, second and holiday homes being rented out as a short-term let
- A limit on up to four guests per flat to avoid renting out 'party flats'
- Owners to vote for short-term lets permission in their buildings
- A ban on Central zone apartments to be rented out if they don't have their own private entrance
- A limit on the amount of income a host can earn from short-term lets in a year
- Only owners (not renters) can become hosts
- Have permission for renting out from the other co-owners in the building.
Even though many different regulations have been applied and many cities have implemented fines for illegality, there are still illegal hosts and unregistered properties. Enforcing these regulations has proved to be challenging in many cities. Some set up dedicated teams to monitor hosting activity, some use bills and taxes to verify that the hosts live in the rented property, and so on. The participation of Airbnb and other similar platforms on enforcing the regulation appears to be important. In cities, like Amsterdam, Barcelona and London, Airbnb either blocks automatically illegal listings/hosts or provides access to data that can be used to monitor the hosting activity. Many cities/countries, like Amsterdam, Barcelona, Denmark and Paris, ask platforms to share data with regulators. Denmark has activated two different sets of regulations, one for collaborating with the government platforms and one for non-collaborating.
Finally, Airbnb also collects Tourism Tax in some cities. The Scottish Government is undertaking a separate consultation exercise on the Tourism Tax, the discussion document for which can be found here.
Table 11 - Summary table of regulations across area
|Location||Type of regulation|
|Limit number of nights||Limit number of listings||Registration/ licencing/ planning permission||Limit change of use||Income taxation/ Tourism tax||AirBnB data sharing||Host required to live in property||Other|
|Greece||√||√||√||x||√||x||x||Housing standards requirements; Only service provided bed linen|
|Italy||x||x||x||√||x||x||Share guest data with police|
|Amsterdam||√||x||√||√||√||x||x||Social housing renting ban; Up to 4 guests per flat|
|Madrid||√||x||√||x||√||x||x||Owners to vote for short-term lets permission in their buildings. Ban on flats rented out without private entrance|
|Reykjavik||√||x||√||x||x||x||x||Limit income level|
|Boston||√||x||√||x||√||√||√||Hosts can only be owners (not renters)|
|San Francisco||√||√||√||x||√||x||√||Second/Holiday homes renting banned|
European Country Regulations
In 2018, the Danish government regulated online platforms, such as Airbnb, focusing on two aspects. Firstly, in Copenhagen and the rest of Denmark, primary homes used as short-term lets can be rented out for up to 70 days per year (Edinburgh City Council 2018). Local authorities will have the power to increase this limit up to 100 nights per year for hosts using collaborating platforms, i.e. platforms that collaborate with the government and share required data. Hosts using non-collaborating platforms to advertise their listings will be allowed to rent out their property for up to 30 days a year (Frontline 2018). Airbnb will start sharing data with the Danish tax authorities on the income of hosts from July 2019 in order to ensure the accurate payment of tax. For collaborating platforms, a homeowner will be able to earn tax-free 28,000dkk (£3,277) for a primary home and 40,000dkk (£4,681) for a holiday home, compared to 11,000dkk (£1,287) on platforms that do not share data with the government.
From January 2018, Greece has imposed taxes on all income earned from short-term lets for tourism use. The tax is based on income level:
- 15% for annual incomes up to €12,000
- 35% for annual incomes of €12,001-35,000
- 45% for income over €35,001.
The law (voted in 2016 but implemented in 2018) allows up to four homes per host, and includes the requirements that properties should be larger than 9m2 with natural lighting, ventilation, heating, fully furnished and the only service allowed is bed linen. If hosts offer more than bed linen (i.e. other services provided by hotels, such as cleaning services, changing linen, etc.) then the rental price is subject to VAT (13%). Properties can be rented out for up to 90 days in popular tourist areas and for up to 50 days in smaller Greek areas (not yet implemented).
Each short-term rental property should be registered at the 'Short-Term Residence Property Registry' of the Independent Authority for Public Revenue; the number of the license should then be declared in the online advertisement of the property. Fines of up to €5,000 will be applied for unregistered properties.
Regulations in Ireland on short-term lets (announced in October 2018) are based on the principle of 'one host, one home' in areas with high housing demand. Hosts are allowed to short-term let their primary residence after having registered with Local Authorities. They can rent out their entire primary home for up to 90 days a year, and no more than 14 days at a time. A secondary property can be used as short-term let, only after having obtained a permit for tourism/short-term letting purposes. Local planning authorities issue these 'change of use' planning permissions and in areas with high housing demand, permissions are not issued.
In Italy, the earnings from short-term letting are tax-free for up to €3,000 a year, 10% for up to €10,000 and then they are taxable based on hosts marginal tax rate (Frontline 2018). The Italian Government approved the 'Italian Airbnb Tax', which allows hosts to apply a fixed 21% tax to their short-term lets income instead of the traditional progressive taxation based on income (between 23-43%). The definition for short-term lets used to define eligibility for this tax is that the property is rented out for less than 30 days per year. The Italian law also requires short-term rent hosts (as well as hotels and other forms of accommodation) to register data on the identities of their guests with local police for clearance.
European City Regulations
Amsterdam City Council in 2014 implemented new rental laws which allowed people to rent out their entire homes for up to 60 days annually, given that they were satisfying certain conditions, such as paying municipalities tourism tax and other related taxes and given that there were no complaints from the neighbourhood (Indigo House 2017, p. 53). From January 2017, after an agreement between Airbnb and the City of Amsterdam, Airbnb has been blocking automatically the booking of entire homes once the limit of 60 days has been reached (Wachsmuth, Kerrigan et al. 2017). Short stays for less than seven days in Amsterdam are banned in residential properties and are considered appropriate only for hotels and bed and breakfasts (Edinburgh City Council 2018). Short stays are considered to be between seven days and six months and are allowed only if the property obtains a change of use permit, and there is a limitation in the number of licenses to 10% of a district's housing supply (Edinburgh City Council 2018, p. 14). Home exchanges are allowed if it is clear that the properties are not rented out for money and on a regular basis for short periods, i.e. up to 60 days annually (Edinburgh City Council 2018). Local authorities and housing associations have banned short-term lettings in their rented housing stock in order to preserve the existing affordable housing stock (Indigo House 2017, Edinburgh City Council 2018).
In 2019, the regulations will become stricter as the upper limit will be 30 days yearly and for a maximum of 4 people per flat (Edinburgh City Council 2018). The limitation in the number of people that can jointly rent one property aims to avoid noisy 'party flats' (Coyle and Yeung 2017). Hosts (of all types of accommodation) are also required to pay tourism tax and tax on their income from holiday rentals. Amsterdam spends around €4 million per year on policing of holiday rental properties (Edinburgh City Council 2018).
Barcelona has implemented regulations regarding the short-term letting sector in 2002, which were revisited in 2012 and 2014. The legislation allows for the 'touristic use of houses' (TUH) or short-term lets of entire homes (and not private rooms) for up to 30 days and only after obtaining a license (Indigo House 2017, p. 53). The TUH regulations change the status of the property from residential to business, and it is directly linked to local planning regulations – which determine the number of licenses for each urban area (banning short-term lets in overcrowded central urban areas), as well as the physical distance between each business property (Indigo House 2017). A tourism tax is applied to all tourists staying in any kind of accommodation and is paid for the first 7 days of stay.
Hosts are allowed to advertise only one entire home listing, unless they are professional operators (Airbnb 2017b). Finally, the regulations require owners to make the official registration number (license number) of their business property public in any advertisement, however many failed to be legal (Indigo House 2017). An 'illegal apartment squad' was set up to identify unlicensed properties and resulted in a fine of €600,000 against Airbnb for advertising illegal listings (Frontline 2018). To this end, Airbnb has applied a limit to the city's most crowded area (Ciutat Vella) to ensure that only professional operators who share their information on the platform can advertise more than one whole property (Frontline 2018). From June 2018, city officials have access to Airbnb data to obtain information on the address of the rentals and the identity of hosts in order to verify whether they have obtained the necessary license (Edinburgh City Council 2018).
The Zweckentfremdungsverbotsverordnung law prevents the change of use of properties, making it difficult to convert residential properties into business properties and thus maintaining housing costs affordable over time (Indigo House 2017, p. 54). In 2016, Berlin banned unregistered short-term rentals - unless having obtained a permit from the Berlin Senate - in order to maintain the housing supply in the city (Coyle and Yeung 2017). A permit for short-term rentals is required when the property is rented out repeatedly as a holiday apartment or tourist accommodation; when the property is used for commercial or professional purposes; when the property is not suitable for residential use; and when the property is empty for more than six months (Edinburgh City Council 2018).
Since March 2018, the regulations eased for short-term rentals allowing a primary residence to be rented out without a limit of days per year and a second residence for up to 90 days (Edinburgh City Council 2018). However, a permit is required in all cases, with a fee of €250 and fines have increased up to €500,000 (Edinburgh City Council 2018). Permits for primary residencies are likely to be approved, while permits for second homes go through a rigorous process. Empty flats for more than three months require a special permit from the local authorities. "Berlin use dedicated staff who actively identify possible cases of unlicensed letting through a variety of methods. These include tip offs from neighbours and rental bicycles parked outside apartments" (Edinburgh City Council 2018, p. 15).
Renting out more than half of a residential property for a whole year or renting out the entire property for more than 56 nights per year requires a 'change of use' license. Hosts are required to display their registration number on their online adverts.
Short-term lets in London are allowed to be rented out for a maximum of 90 days per year consecutively and cumulatively in the same calendar year (Indigo House 2017). Also, from 2015 hosts are required to obtain a change-of-use planning permission (from residential/domestic property to commercial) in order to legally rent out their properties for more than 90 days (Indigo House 2017, p. 55). Short-term lets for less than 90 days do not require a permit (Edinburgh City Council 2018). However, according to a report by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), additional actions should be considered to ensure that the above regulations are enforced: homesharing websites and local authorities should ensure that hosts respect the 90-day rule; platforms should limit by default hosting activity at 90 days unless a permit is demonstrated; platforms should share data with local authorities; the registration process for hosts should be eased; and platforms should encourage hosting activity in London's outer boroughs (IPPR 2016).
Since 2017, Airbnb automatically blocks bookings for entire home listings booked for more than 90 days per year, unless hosts present the required permission (Airbnb 2017c). This regulation resulted in the reduction of the percentage of Airbnb listings booked for more than 90 days a year from 21% in July 2016 to 7% in July 2017 (Airbnb 2017c).
Short-term lets hosts in Madrid need to register their rental properties with the Register of Tourism Enterprises. The registration number should be then included in the advertisement of the listings. To rent out apartments as short-term lets, three quarters of all owners in the building should agree (by vote). In March 2019, Madrid introduced a new vacation-rental law that bans apartments in the Central zone of the city to be rented out if they don't have their own private entrance. Entire apartment blocks will no longer be rented out as short-term lets, unless they are licensed as hotels. Finally, Madrid will ban apartments from being used as short-term lets for more than 90 days a year.
Short-term lets have to be registered with the City authorities and have a maximum of 120 days rental period per year (Indigo House 2017, p. 55). They must also display the registration number when advertising (Edinburgh City Council 2018). Properties which are rented out for more than 120 days per year need to be registered as 'commercial property' and must apply for a 'change of use' permit (Indigo House 2017, p. 55). Airbnb automatically collects the same nightly tourism tax as other kinds of accommodation in Paris do.
In Reykjavik, short-term lets can be rented out for up to 90 days a year without a permit. At the same time, the gross income from renting out a property cannot exceed one million Icelandic Króna (equal to around £6,400) (Edinburgh City Council 2018). Properties rented out for more than 90 days should obtain a license. However, according to the Reykjavik Grapevine, most long-term listings are not legally registered (a discrepancy calculated by comparing the number of permits issued to the number of Airbnb listings). An Airbnb committee was put in place in October 2017 in the City of Reykjavik to identify illegal hosts.
North American City Regulations
In Boston, a short-term let is defined as the use of a residential unit for residential occupancy for a fee and for less than 28 consecutive days a year. A property rented out for more than 28 consecutive days annually is considered a long-term rental. According to the City of Boston, from 1 January 2019, only owner-occupied properties will be allowed to be operated as short-term lets and will need to register with the City and renew the license annually. There are annual registration fees and fines for illegal hosts. The same is requested from lodging homes and bed and breakfasts if they advertise their services on a short-term rental host platform. Room occupancy taxes may apply to short-term lets guests. Short-term rentals are now taxed in Massachusetts, with a 5.7% state excise tax and other hotel tax policies. Online accommodation platforms will also be required to share data with the City at a monthly basis, including data on rental property locations, type of properties and number of booked nights.
In April 2016, the Province of Quebec put into force Bill 67, a law aimed at capturing tax revenue without adding barriers to the growth of peer-to-peer accommodation (Wachsmuth, Kerrigan et al. 2017). 'Regular users' (those renting out for more than 31 consecutive days per year) were required to get a permit from Quebec's Ministry of Tourism and pay an accommodation tax of 3.5%, while 'occasional users' (those renting out their home for less than 31 consecutive days) were not required to have a permit (Wachsmuth, Kerrigan et al. 2017, p. 41). However, in March 2017, less than 1% of the full-time Airbnb listings had the required license and there was a low conviction rate for illegal hosts (Wachsmuth, Kerrigan et al. 2017). For these reasons, law enforcement moved from Quebec's Ministry of Tourism to Quebec's revenue, the tax-collecting agency.
According to the New York State Multiple Dwelling Law (MDL), a permanent residency (a property occupied by the same natural person or family for at least 30 consecutive days) cannot be rented out for less than 30 days unless the permanent tenant is residing in the property during the rental period. New York State has also banned advertisement for listings violating MDL. In line with the law, Airbnb allows hosts to advertise only one entire home listing, following the principle 'one host, one home'. Additional rules require hosting platforms to submit monthly reports disclosing information on hosts, economic activity and type of listings offered.
New York City and New York State apply multiple taxes, such as State sales and use tax, City hotel room occupancy tax, and State and City nightly room fee, for tourist-use types of accommodation. Airbnb collects bed taxes at county-level.
In Philadelphia, renting out a property (entire home or single room) requires a general rental license. Renting out a primary residence for up to 90 days cumulatively per year (and up to 30 consecutive days per visitor) does not require any specific permit, renting out between 91 and 180 days or second/holiday homes requires a permit, while renting out for more than 180 nights requires a Commercial Activity license (Airbnb 2017b). Airbnb collects tourism tax (same as the hotel tax) from guests.
Permanent residents (who live in the property for at least 275 days per year) can rent out their primary residence for up to 90 days a year, unless they are present in the property during the rental period (Indigo House 2017). The short-term let of second and holiday homes is not allowed. In other words, hosts can register only one property and only if they are permanent residents of the property (Edinburgh City Council 2018). All hosts need to obtain a Short-Term Rental Certificate and a Business Registration Certificate (done on Airbnb's website). A Transient Occupancy tax (14%) is applied on bookings for less than 30 days. Although the fine for non-registered properties is of $1,000 per day (Edinburgh City Council 2018, p. 15), there are reportedly many illegal hosts (Indigo House 2017, p. 56).
Santa Monica has implemented the strictest regulation for short-term lets across the U.S. Since June 2015, the Home-Sharing Ordinance states that hosts are required to be living in the rented property during the rental period, rent out for up to 31 days, obtain a business license from the City and apply a 14% Transient Occupancy tax from guests, collected by the City (Indigo House 2017, p. 56).
In Toronto, short-term rentals are defined as rentals for less than 28 consecutive days a year. The City of Toronto requires short-term rental companies to obtain a license and pay a fee of $5,000 plus $1 per night booked through the platform and short-term rental operators to register with the City, pay a fee of $50 and a Municipal Accommodation Tax (MAT) of 4%. The new regulations (not yet in effect) will allow hosts to rent as short-term let only their principal residence. Entire homes can be rented out if owner/tenant is away to a maximum of 180 nights per year. However, a hearing at the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal scheduled for August 2019 will decide on the City's zoning regarding short-term rentals, and short-term lets regulations will come into force only after the appeal decision has been reached.
Short-term lets in Vancouver are defined as entire homes or private rooms rented out for less than 30 consecutive days at a time and need to be the primary residence of hosts (as owners or tenants). From 2018, all short-term rental hosts need to obtain a business license and to include the license number in the online adverts. Airbnb since October 2018 collects and remits Provincial Sales Tax (8%) and Municipal and Regional District Tax, known as the Hotel tax (2-3%). Other platforms, such as Homeaway and TripAdvisor, have stated that they will also respect the law. The fine for illegal hosts can be up to $1,000 per offence. To identify that the rented out property is the primary residence of the hosts the City used identification bills, taxes and/or insurance. To ease enforcement, Airbnb has agreed to provide a list of all licenses and addresses of short-term rentals.
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