Unlicensed holiday rentals sector faces new ‘squeeze’

The struggle to regulate rogue holiday rentals has moved to a new level, explains Público.

From this month, one of the largest online platforms in the sector has started asking clients to enter details of licenses conferred under the much-criticised Alojamento Local regime.

It is a measure already adopted by other markets, says the paper, citing “some autonomous communities of Spain and towns in the USA” – the idea being to (finally?) concede to legal requirements of given territories.

But is it binding, asks Público – learning almost immediately that it isn’t.

Airbnb, the huge online rentals platform that has transformed people’s travel options, explains that it is “still up to the host” to decide whether or not to participate.

In other words, says the paper, “people who don’t supply the information are not excluded” from renting – they are just aware that somewhere in Airbnb’s files there is paperwork that could cause them future problems.

Although other online businesses, like, do not yet ask clients for licence details, it is clear that this is likely to become the norm as the net tightens over people trying to run businesses, or at least make extra money, ‘under the radar’.

A recent study done at the behest of AHP (Portugal’s hoteliers association) shows that at the end of September last year, “the number of units registered with Airbnb was 37% higher than those on the national register of Alojamento Local” – and by December this had dropped to 34%.

But it still means that there are 18,000 unlicensed properties, explains Público – and that is just those registered with Airbnb.

Elsewhere, the AL conundrum has been further confused by two conflicting appeal court rulings. In Lisbon, for instance, judges have ruled that condominium owners can stop neighbours from letting properties to tourists, while in Porto, a bench has decided that they can’t.

Secretary of state for tourism Ana Mendes Godinho has agreed the AL law still needs some attention, and further changes are to be discussed next year with AHP.

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