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'They ignore the law': Barcelona urges Airbnb to remove 1,000 flats

City council spots 'apparently legal' accommodations and blasts company for not complying with agreements as local tourism industry struggles

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08 December 2020 01:23 PM

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ACN | Barcelona

Barcelona has urged Airbnb to remove 969 flats in the Catalan capital, which the local council sees as "irregular."

The government led by Ada Colau said on Tuesday that the accommodations are "apparently legal," but some have no license to operate, others have a falsified one and even some rooms advertised offer a whole flat divided into rooms that acts as a guesthouse.

The council blasted the website for "ignoring the law" and not complying with the agreements established – especially in the current context, with the pandemic ongoing and the local tourism industry struggling.

Barcelona has been working in identifying irregularities also during the pandemic because they do not "trust" AirBnB, according to councilor Janet Sanz.

Since 2017, local authorities have urged for the removal of 11,714 ads in similar platforms, 80% of which in AirBnB.

AirBnB's reaction

Shortly after Barcelona's complaint, the online platform said in a statement that they would review the ads that the council is questioning.

The firm stressed that they have been working alongside Colau's team for years, a cooperation which has contributed to removing 5,000 ads over the years.

Airbnb committed to guaranteeing the local communities' safety and reminded that they have created a tool to help the council to develop their inspections and that they have a section in their website where neighbors can file complaints about loud noise or unauthorized parties.

New licensing regulations

After a long-standing fight by Colau's government against illegal tourist accommodations, in August the Catalan government approved a decree clarifying the regulations of flat-sharing with tourists.

The person offering the flat will only be able only to share it with four people for stays equal or lower than 31 days, and they will have to be living with the visitors during their stay – this will be in force from August 2021.

Another section of the decree, facilitating inspections of local councils is already in operation.

While Airbnb reacted to the new rules saying "it is a step forward," Barcelona's local council criticized the decree saying it was giving AirBnB "a red-carpet treatment."

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  • Barcelona mayor Ada Colau speaking at an event in October 2020 (by Mariona Puig)

  • Barcelona mayor Ada Colau speaking at an event in October 2020 (by Mariona Puig)

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