Airbnb to remove some listings if new law passes; Now lets neighbors file nuisance complaints

Short stay rental platform Airbnb said it will take the voluntary step of excluding advertisements for Dutch properties which have not been registered and approved by the municipality should a new national law requiring the registration pass parliament. The bill was meant to address issues caused by popular short stay rental platforms is working its way through parliament.

Airbnb’s maneuvering was revealed by company co-founder Nathan Blecharczyk in an interview with NRC. Blecharczyk said the company was trying to work with Dutch cities which have problems fighting unlawful rentals in their municipalities. Amsterdam has had years-long complaints about Airbnb practices, and it was joined by the country’s other largest cities in saying that tighter national restrictions are needed.

The company also launched a “Neighborhood Support” form where area residents can file complaints regarding Airbnb properties, with the firm vowing to contact listing owners to address the problems. Still, the site leaned on residents to deal with the issues themselves. “Resolving problems related to home sharing usually happens fastest by making direct contact with your neighbors,” Airbnb wrote on the form, accessible by a link in the Dutch version of the website’s footer.

Urgent issues may be dealt with by an around-the-clock hotline the company will launch next month. A pilot program regarding noise and nuisance will take place over the upcoming three months in Amsterdam, meant to assist Airbnb hosts address complaints.

“While these steps are designed to be good partners to the Netherlands and address local issues, they are not an exhaustive list of our efforts in this area. Our commitment to the Netherlands is long-term and ongoing, and while as a company we are not perfect, we are always learning and we will keep moving forward with this important work,” Blecharczyk, the current Chief Strategy Officer, wrote in a letter to the Minister of Environment and Housing, Stientje van Veldhoven.

“These measures make clear that we have a zero tolerance for bad actors that cause serious or persistent disruption on our platform,” he wrote. However he made no statement about how these “bad actors” will be punished or if all of their properties will be removed from the platform.

The announcement comes less than a month after the Council of State struck down an Amsterdam law which allowed some city residents to rent their home to tourists up to 30 days annually without the registration. Though the Council of State ruling also reversed a six thousand euro fine levied by the city, it affirmed Amsterdam’s right to impose fines on residents who rent out their homes without a permit to do so.

In response, an Airbnb spokesperson told NL Times in January, “We want to work with governments to help hosts follow the rules, but situations like this are confusing, which is why we have today backed calls for an EU regulator for digital services to help provide a more clear, consistent and predictable process for setting rules and regulations in Europe.”

The new steps were also released just a half-year after the firm was suspended from the Amsterdam Economic Board’s Network Council for refusing to limit the number of days an Amsterdam property may be rented out via the site. Amsterdam recently lowered the maximum number of days from 60 down to 30.

Airbnb will have an opportunity to plead its case to lift the Network Council suspension in March. The Council advises local lawmakers on civic issues, and is comprised of politicians and representatives from dozens of companies, academic institutions, and think tanks.