Airbnb, which offers locals the chance to rent out their homes or spare rooms to travellers visiting their city, says that almost twice as many Swedes are offering their properties online this summer compared to in 2014.
According to figures from the company released in Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter, more than 6000 Stockholm homes are now listed on the site. Just over 1000 Gothenburg properties and 600 spaces in Malmö are also being offered. Across Sweden, more than 10,000 homes are available for tourists.
But there are concerns that many people are breaking strict housing association rules by secretly sub-letting their rented properties, causing potential insurance hazards, upsetting neighbours and risking having their leases taken away.
Under Swedish law, residents with a first hand rental contract (an agreement with the owner of the building) are only supposed to sub-let their apartments under certain circumstances, such as because they are moving in with a partner or going away to study. The tenant co-operation board for the building (bostadsrättsföreningen) or the landlord is supposed to sign off any second hand lease.
Property lawyer Line Zandén told Dagens Nyheter that first-hand renters found to be promoting their apartments on Airbnb would almost certainly lose their contracts if discovered; bad news in cities such as Stockholm where in some areas there is a 20-year waiting list for this kind of rental lease.
But she said that the rules for Swedes owning condominiums in new apartment complexes were less clear.
While some buildings do allow owners to offer their homes as vacation rentals, paperwork listing the tenants’ names usually needs to be submitted to housing boards in advance, which can be tricky with Airbnb where many bookings are last-minute.
“By the time the board have had time to send out their documents, the tourists have long moved out,” explained Zandén.
Several campaign groups have called for tougher national rules to crack down on Airbnb use in Sweden in the wake of a number of high profile cases where apartments were severely damaged by customers and one incident in Stockholm which saw a property turned into a brothel in 2012.
But others – including Zandén – argue for a more liberal approach which would allow owners and tenant co-operation boards the chance to fully debate the use of properties for Airbnb rental and come up with their own interpretations of existing laws.
She suggested that this was a better approach than allowing some people to continue renting their homes in secret.
“The more tourists that pass through, the greater the risk that one or more of them does not take care of the apartment or property as they should,” she told Dagens Nyheter.
Airbnb, which operates in 190 countries, has already proved controversial in many of its core markets.
The government of Spain's Catalonia region fined the holiday apartment rental site €30,000 ($40,000) for what it described as a “serious” breach of local tourism laws in July 2014.
In France, hoteliers penned an open letter to their prime minister in February, urging him to even out the competition amid fears that too many customers were opting to stay in Airbnb apartments to avoid paying more expensive hotel prices.
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