Airbnb Agrees to Enforce Limit on Rentals For First Time


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Airbnb to Enforce Limits on Rentals in London, Amsterdam


Airbnb Inc. agreed for the first time to restrict—in two big markets—the number of nights a year a host can rent out a home, in a major concession to regulators in the U.S. and Europe.

City officials in tourist capitals from New York to Berlin have said that home-sharing can squeeze out locals by making it more lucrative for owners to cater to tourists than let their homes to long-term residents.

In its biggest effort to quell concerns, Airbnb said Thursday it would block hosts in London and Amsterdam from January from renting out entire homes for more than those cities' legal yearly limits on rentals, unless the host has a license to do so. The changes could provide a template for how it operates in other cities around the globe.

On Thursday, Airbnb sent a message to hosts in London saying it would start to apply the city's 90-day-a-year limit on rentals. In Amsterdam, it will apply the city's 60-day-per-year limit.

A new law in New York City goes further, effectively banning most short-term rentals of an entire home in a multiunit building. The company has said it is working with legislators on a compromise.

The company is also facing restrictions in its own backyard. San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee is reviewing a bill that would prevent hosts from renting out dwellings for more than 60 days each year.

For Airbnb, which recently reached a $30 billion valuation, resolving these battles without hurting its business is an important test ahead of any eventual initial public offering.

Airbnb declined to comment on the revenue hit it could take from Thursday's announcement. London is one of the company's top three revenue generators, along with New York and Paris, and Amsterdam is in the top six in Europe.

Airbnb says 35,000 hosts received 1.5 million guests in London in the year ended Sept.16 and a "typical" host had Airbnb guests for 50 nights in 2015. In Amsterdam, the company had 14,200 hosts with 575,000 guests in 2015, and a typical host had guests for 28 nights of the year.

Mr. Robinson declined to say what percentage of listings currently go over the cities' limits. He said that Airbnb expected that excess capacity from more-occasional hosts would absorb much of the demand.

"There is capacity to see much of that demand redistributed," Mr. Robinson said.

Airbnb has previously resisted calls to block hosts from letting beyond local limits, arguing it wasn't in the business of law enforcement. But Thursday's changes build on other concessions offered, as pressure mounts from regulators.

In Paris, where housing inspectors mount raids on tourist neighborhoods, handing out €25,000 fines to those who violate rental laws, the company began a pilot program in the spring to warn hosts who appeared to be renting out homes for more than the maximum 120 days a year. But the company has stopped short so far of blocking rentals beyond that limit.

Meanwhile, the company has struck deals to collect tourist taxes, including in Amsterdam, where it says it will collect €8.2 million ($8.7 million) in such levies in 2016.

Last autumn, the company promised it would also work with governments to resolve concerns over affordable housing.

Write to Sam Schechner at sam.schechner@wsj.com and Greg Bensinger at greg.bensinger@wsj.com


  (END) Dow Jones Newswires
  12-01-160445ET
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