iRozhlas: Landlords abandoning Airbnb as service faces closer oversight

Photo illustrative: Schluesseldienst/Pixabay, CC0

Many landlords in Prague have switched from offering Airbnb type services since the advent of the coronavirus crisis. At the same time, the state is planning to implement more rigorous oversight of short-term rentals, reported on Thursday.

Photo: Schluesseldienst,  Pixabay,  CC0 1.0 DEED
The Czech government temporarily barred short-term rents in March as part of measures aimed at containing the spread of Covid-19.

Prior to the coronavirus crisis between 10,000 and 15,000 apartments in Prague were being offered on Airbnb, said.

However, the new situation – with visitor numbers plummeting overnight – left landlords and agencies scrambling to find an alternative approach and many opted to offer their properties for rent for several-month or longer periods.

David Bureš, who runs a property management company, said it had become clear that all landlords would face difficult times in the coming two years, so his firm had shifted to long-term rents.

Mr. Bureš said this was likely to pay off particularly in areas close to Prague city centre, such as Holešovice, Žižkov and Karlín.

Earlier in the current state of emergency, the government pushed through a bill under which Airbnb is now required to provide information on rentals to the country’s trade licensing authorities, including retrospectively. This data can also be accessed by the tax authorities.

Meanwhile, Prague City Hall is planning its own restrictions on Airbnb and similar services.

Councillors are keen to acquire greater control over short-term rentals, not just due to lost revenues from accommodation charges but over the noise problems that can accompany them.

Further restrictions can be expected from the capital. The current management of Prague is trying to rein in short-term rentals not only because it is losing revenue from accommodation fees, but also because of complaints about adjacent apartments and houses about noise and clutter.

Mayor Zdeněk Hřib said the new measures would make it easier to check if rentals had been declared as businesses, adding that this would help ensure hygiene and other standards.

The central Prague 1 district, which has had the highest concentration of Airbnb properties, said it would make use of the new legal tools to boost its oversight of the business.

The authorities in the capital have also been seeking for some time to put time limits on short-term rentals and to give residents associations say over whether such services may be provided in their buildings. said that economic uncertainty and stricter regulations could lead to investors with sizable portfolios of properties taking over the market, squeezing out small-time landlords supplementing their incomes.

However, Mayor Hřib warned against what he described as hotels spreading into apartment buildings. This would negatively impact the quality of life of residents and also make accommodation less accessible for young people, he said.