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North Rhine-Westphalia Imposing Fines for Misuse of Residential Property

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19.

August 2021

The state parliament of North Rhine-Westphalia passed a Housing Protection Act (“Wohnraumstärkungsgesetz”) on 16 June that entered into force on 1 July. The new law empowers municipalities in that state to take more drastic measures to combat the neglect or misuse of residential property – by imposing fines, which in some cases can go as high as 500,000 euros.

North Rhine-Westphalia and Mecklenburg-West Pomerania Seek to Protect Residential Accommodation

The objective is to counter the emerging housing shortage with a concrete schedule of actions. Landlords who offer flats for short-term rental are obliged since 1 July to quote an identification number. The idea is to ensure the enforceability of the law by municipal governments. In order to keep the red tape to a minimum, the state has signalled its intention to introduce a uniform online procedure. In the same context, municipalities are authorised to forward the contact details of landlords to the inland revenue office. The law also provides that short-term rental should be limited to a maximum of three months out of a given year, and that residential accommodation may not remain vacant without good reason for more than six months. In order to intervene more effectively in the permanent letting of regular apartments to temporary employees, landlords are now obliged to provide adequate accommodation. At the same time, special concepts must be presented for collective accommodation. In either case, the residential and sanitary areas are subject to the standards of the Federal Workplace Ordinance (ArbStättV) as guideline. The supply contraction in the housing sectors of many resort towns has also become an issue in the seaside state of Mecklenburg-West Pomerania. Rainer Albrecht, spokesperson for housing in the Social Democrats’ state parliamentary group, emphasises on his homepage that the undesirable use of housing as holiday homes should be curbed (Source: rainer-albrecht.net). He adds that doing so would make it easier to find enough skilled workers in the state’s tourist sector (Source: rainer-albrecht.net). The state already resolved on 14 April of this year to implement a law against the misuse of residential property. It empowers municipalities to make the conversion of residential accommodation subject to prior approval. An additional measure that may be introduced yet is to extend the protection of existing developments to properly registered holiday flats.

Berlin has Actively Fought Housing Misuse since 2014

Adopting a pioneering role, Berlin decided as early as 2014 to make the letting of private flats to tourists exclusively subject to regulatory approval. Four years later, the law was tightened further: Home sharers have since been obliged to register for temporary lettings or else risk a fine. According to a survey conducted by the DIW German Institute for Economic Research, the asking rents for conventional flats located close to Airbnb apartments increased at an average rate of 0.13 euros per square metre in 2021. Inversely, the regulation preventing misuse of residential property can deliver savings of up to 38 euros a month to tenants of 65-square-metre flats in some districts of Berlin, for example. Under the regulation, using a flat as Airbnb rental without restrictions is impossible. Many flats that are currently unavailable to the regular housing market could be returned to it and thus help ease the strain on the supply side.

Airbnb Ban a Major Subject across Europe

Other states in Germany are following suit: Rhineland-Palatinate introduced a draft bill in January 2021 to regulate the misuse of residential accommodation, while the city state of Hamburg introduced housing protection numbers for the same purpose. Short-term rentals to holidaymakers via Airbnb are a hotly debated subject everywhere in Europe. In 2020, the European Court of Justice ruled in this matter that cities may indeed restrict short-term rentals of regular flats via platforms like Airbnb if they suffer from a shortage of affordable housing. Sources: www.haufe.de www1.wdr.de www.diw.de rainer-albrecht.net

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