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Swedes debate capital's first Airbnb rent ‘ban'

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Swedes debate capital's first Airbnb rent ‘ban'
The apartment is located in Stockholm's trendy Södermalm neighbourhood. Photo: Christine Olsson/TT
13:58 CEST+02:00
UPDATED: A landmark ruling banning a woman in Stockholm from renting out her apartment via the home-sharing website Airbnb after a rent tribunal likened the letting with running a "hotel business" on the premises has sparked debate in Sweden.
The landmark ruling by Hyresnämnden is believed to be a first in the Swedish capital and risks sending shockwaves among the more than 10,000 people listed as Airbnb letters in the Stockholm area, a number that has almost doubled since 2014.
 
“Hopefully this will send a message to people that they can't rent out to people however they please,” Anne Bratt Norrevik, chairwoman for the rent tribunal Hyresnämnden in Stockholm, told The Local.
 
The 27-year-old woman in Stockholm was rapped on the knuckles after she contacted the tribunal in a bid to overrule a previous rejection by her housing society to rent out her one bedroom apartment, which is located in Södermalm, a trendy neighbourhood in the south of the city. Her reason for wanting to sublet the flat via Airbnb was because she had just bought a new home and wanted to avoid paying her mortgage in two places until the next owners moved in. 
 
 
But the tribunal wasn't as generous as she had hoped.
 
“The person (in question) renting out via Airbnb is receiving a compensation that is comparable with that received for a hotel room,” the tribunal said in its decision in which it rejected her plea, adding that “it can be bothersome for others living in the building when a number of unknown people are coming and going.”
 
The decision, which was taken in mid-August but reached the Swedish media on Thursday, was based on the woman asking for permission to rent out the apartment on a total of seven occasions between August 20th and September 23rd.
 
Bratt Norrevik said that although letting via Airbnb is not illegal in Sweden, it should not be viewed as means to pad out an income.
 
“There shouldn't be a lot of (guest) changes or be seen as a way to just make money,” she said, noting also that it was important that housing authorities were on board with the sublettings. In Sweden, all apartment buildings are managed by either a property company or the municipaltity.
 
The landmark ruling sparked debate in Sweden with overwhelming support for the popular home-sharing site. Many called for laws and taxes to be updated to allow apartment owners to rent out their pad in a legal way.
 
"I think people should definitely use Airbnb as a way to rent out their apartment for people on holiday. Not for long-term though. It is cheaper than hotels on many occasions. I think owners should follow regulations and pay tax to the government," Marlene Salin, 28, who works as a store manager, told The Local.
 

Marlene Salin. Photo: Trini Testi/The Local
 
In a move to overcome a severe shortage of rental properties in Stockholm, Sweden changed its housing rules in 2013, making it easier for owners to rent out their apartments.
 
“But the new law is meant to increase housing possibilities, not the number of hotel rooms,” Bratt Norrevik said, referring to the woman's use of Airbnb.
 
Stockholm is notorious for its crazy rental market, where rent caps on many apartments has led to a black market where some people have been forced to pay money under the table to get their hands on a first hand contract, while thousands of others are subletting at much higher prices.
 
Sweden is not the only spot in Europe where the use of Airbnb has been questioned.
 
In Germany, a court recently ruled that Berlin landlords have the right to evict a tenant who sublets a rented apartment via Airbnb, calling it a “severe breach of contract”.
 
In France and Spain, authorities have also begun to crack down on Airbnb sublets by imposing taxes on such rentals to ensure that municipalities don't miss out on revenues as an increasing number of visitors opt for Airbnb rather than paying for hotels. 
 

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