Paris threatens Airbnb, peers with court over unregistered listings

Paris threatens Airbnb, peers with court over unregistered listings
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PARIS (Reuters) - Paris city council put several flat-sharing and rental sites including Airbnb on formal notice on Monday, demanding the platforms take down listings lacking official registration numbers as part of fresh curbs on short-term lets.

As of Dec. 1 people renting out apartments on specialist websites in Paris have to register them with the town hall, echoing a bid by legislators worldwide to regulate a booming industry that has been blamed for driving up property prices.

Authorities said they had totted up over 1,000 unregistered listings on Airbnb and several hundred on four other platforms: Homeaway, Paris Attitude, Sejourning and Windu.

"We're putting five platforms on notice, including Airbnb, so that they remove these listings," said Ian Brossat, a housing official at the city council. "From this point onwards, either the platforms remove the listings and so much the better, or they persevere and we'll take the matter to court."

France is Airbnb's second-largest market after the United States, and Paris, one of the most visited cities in the world, is its biggest single market, with around 65,000 homes listed.

A spokesman for Airbnb said the company was waiting to receive the city council's notification before commenting.

In cities such as Paris, Berlin, New York and Barcelona, local authorities are experimenting with new rules or fines to keep track of listings and limit abuses.

Homeowners in Paris are not allowed to rent out their properties for more than 120 days a year, and now have to register them to make fraud easier to detect.

The growing popularity of the platforms with tourists have sparked a backlash from locals in some instances, with fears that its widespread usage is pushing up rental prices and driving residents out of city centres.

The sites have also faced fierce lobbying from the hotel industry. But home-sharing platforms argue that they are giving households a chance to earn extra money and that tougher rules often penalise people just wanting to share their home with visitors, rather than professional operators.

Airbnb's CEO in France was due to meet the country's Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire later on Monday in a separate matter, to discuss a payment system suspected of facilitating tax avoidance.

(Reporting by Arthur Connan and Sarah White; Editing by Dominique Vidalon and Catherine Evans)

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