Airbnb 'takes homes off Geneva market for locals'
Owners of multiple properties in the Geneva area — in one case as many as 120 apartments — are renting them on a permanent basis to visitors through the Airbnb website, according to a report.
Le Temps newspaper said on Monday that around 2,000 homes were being rented through the website, launched in San Francisco and now advertising “places to stay from local hosts in 190 countries”.
The newspaper points out though that while Geneva is facing a housing crisis, with an official vacancy rate of close to zero and apartments virtually impossible to find for newcomers to the city, hundreds of units have been taking out of regular housing stock for short-term vacation rentals through Airbnb.
Other European cities, such as Paris and Berlin, as well as those in the US, have taken action through taxes and regulation to discourage owners of multiple properties from renting for short periods to tourists.
But so far the canton of Geneva has not taken any such measures.
Le Temps uncovered the case of a woman who is managing 120 apartments, including 39 overlooking Lake Geneva, which are being rented out on a short-term basis through Airbnb.
The daily cites a man living in the Pâquis neighbourhood of Geneva who admitted to subletting his three-room apartment on weekends for 90 francs a night through the site to help pay for his rent.
The newspapers talked to another man who manages 16 apartments that are rented on a short-term basis via Airbnb to expats working short stints for multinational companies.
It also interviewed a tenant, identified as Laurent, who sublets his apartment in Geneva’s Old Town for half a year through the website, while he travels, charging 100 francs a night.
“It made me heart broken that it (the apartment) was unoccupied,” Laurent is quoted as saying.
“As well, I have already been broken into and I know there is more chance of that happening again if I leave the apartment empty.”
Le Temps said Laurent and others use pseudonyms and false photos on the Airbnb site because they do not have approval from their landlords to sublet in this way.
And the newspaper reported that some individuals manage to sublet numerous apartments.
One woman who rents out her apartment through Airbnb said it offers the advantages of flexibility because no lease is required and so if she need to use the apartment she can quickly take possession without a notice period.
Airbnb is one of several competing websites offering similar home rental booking services, including such rivals as Housetrip and Wimdu, although it has the highest profile.
Le Temps noted that other cities have taken various steps aimed at preventing property owners or renters from inappropriate use of the services.
Paris, for example, has decided to subject Airbnb to a daily tax (taxe de séjour) and also sends inspectors to ensure that apartments earmarked for rental by local residents are not used by tourists.
Madrid has imposed a minimum stay of five nights for homes advertised through the site and has required those who are renting out to register with the city.