Local accommodation: new Brussels rules focusing on transparency

The European Commission has tabled a proposal for a regulation to "increase transparency" in the field of short-term housing rentals and to help public authorities ensure their "balanced development" as part of a sustainable tourism sector. According to Eduardo Miranda, president of the Association of Local Housing in Portugal (ALEP), the proposal "is a step forward but does not solve the main problem, which is the fragmentation of laws" at the local level.

"While local accommodation bookings offer benefits for hosts and tourists, they can create concerns for certain struggling local communities, for example with the lack of affordable housing," says Brussels, for whom "the new rules will improve the collection and sharing of data from hosts and online platforms."

The proposed new rules, says the European Commission, "will help to improve transparency in the identification and activity of short-term accommodation hosts and the rules they have to comply with, and will facilitate the registration of hosts." In addition, they will also address "the current fragmentation in the way online platforms share data and ultimately help prevent illegal activity."

What the European Commission's proposal says

The proposed regulation will not affect the ability of public authorities in each country to regulate the rental of short-term accommodation, but will have to adapt its registration system. With the new rules, Brussels wants to:

  • Harmonise registration requirements for hosts and short-term rental properties when introduced by national authorities: registration schemes will have to be completely online and easy to use. A similar set of relevant information about hosts and their properties should be required, including "who", "what" and "where". When you complete registration, hosts must receive a unique registration number;
  • Clarify the rules to ensure that registration numbers are displayed and verified: online platforms will have to make it easier for hosts to display registration numbers on their platforms. They will also have to randomly check whether hosts register and display the correct numbers. Public authorities may suspend registration numbers and request that platforms identify non-compliant hosts;
  • Speed up data sharing between online platforms and public entities: online platforms will have to share data on the number of nights and guests with public entities once a month in an automated way;
  • Allow the re-use of data in aggregate form: the data generated under this proposal will, in aggregate, contribute to the tourism statistics produced by Eurostat;
  • Establish an effective implementation framework: Member States will monitor the implementation of this transparency framework and apply the relevant sanctions in the event of non-compliance with the obligations of the Regulation.

The Commission's proposal has yet to be discussed and approved by the European Parliament. After their adoption and entry into force, Member States shall have a period of two years to establish the necessary mechanisms for the exchange of data.

ALEP stresses importance of information collection

Eduardo Miranda sees the new regulatory proposal with good eyes, and considers that "it is a step forward", but that "does not solve the main problem, which is the fragmentation of laws and regulation, especially at the local level, that has emerged a little everywhere, with disproportionate rules of limitation", according to statements to the newspaper Público.

For the President of ALEP, the collection of information is fundamental and a very positive point, since thus "the authorities will be able to make decisions and legislate on the basis of data and not only on assumptions", since the AL data "are not yet integrated into the statistics".

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