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Are Parisians being asked to denounce neighbours over illegal Airbnb listings?

John Macdougall / AFP | A woman browses the site of US home sharing giant Airbnb.
3 min

Paris officials have been accused of encouraging the city’s inhabitants to denounce neighbours who illegally rent out their properties on platforms such as Airbnb through a new website launched Tuesday.

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The opendata.paris.fr website, set up by the Paris mayor’s office, allows those who sublet their homes – and have obtained the proper authorisation to do so – to register their address. These addresses are then displayed in both list and map form on the website for anyone to access.

Members of the public who know someone renting out a property can then check to see if they have the proper legal permission.

Under the city’s laws, anyone who wants to rent out a residential property for more than four months – or rent out a property that isn’t their primary residence – must apply for a change of use permit and register it as a commercial property.

Those who don’t could face a €25,000 fine.

The website has caused quite a stir online and in the media, with many interpreting it as a way to encourage Parisians to inform the authorities if they suspect a neighbour is not playing by the rules.

“Airbnb: Paris City Hall opens the door to informants” said French daily Le Figaro. “Denunciation brought up to date,” tweeted Jean-Baptiste Marteau, a journalist for the France 2 television channel.

Many took to the comments forum of opendata.paris.fr to express their displeasure. Amid the comments likening Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo to a fascist and member of the Gestapo, some took a more sarcastic tone.

“Great, now we can denounce all our neighbours who we don’t like!” said one.

“My neighbour is German,” said another. “When are the authorities coming to deport him?”

Informing on neighbours not the goal, says Paris

Paris would not be the first city to launch such an initiative. Earlier this month, officials in the German capital Berlin called on residents to anonymously report anyone flouting new housing rules designed to restrict private property rentals through Airbnb and similar online platforms.

However, Paris City Hall has denied that the purpose of the website is to encourage people to inform on each other, but merely to “put pressure” on those breaking the law.

“It’s not a site for denouncing your neighbour,” said Mathias Vicherat, the mayor’s chief of staff, in an interview with Europe1 radio.

“We hope that it provokes a sort of shock of civic consciousness and that people will begin to follow the rules on their own without waiting to be reported by their neighbours,” he added.

At more than 40,000, Paris has more Airbnb hosts than any other city, the property rental website said last year. But the relationship between the San Francisco-based company and the French capital has often been fraught.

Amid fears over rising house prices and a shortage of affordable housing, Paris officials have been cracking down on people who rent out properties illegally, conducting raids on homes in some of the capital’s most popular tourist districts.

Meanwhile, Airbnb agreed last year to start collecting tourists taxes from its customers on behalf of Paris after a complaint of unfair competition by hotel owners.

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