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MPs need more time on Airbnb bill

Airbnb

Lawmakers on Tuesday said they needed more time to tweak a bill that proposes to regulate and tax short-term Airbnb-style property rentals.

The legislative proposal – made by Disy’s Averof Neophytou and Edek’s Elias Myrianthous – aims to create a dedicated registry for short-term self-catering accommodation and then taxing their income, bringing cash into state coffers.

Earlier, MPs said there are currently an estimated 40,000 accommodations across the island being used for short-term rentals that are unlicensed and thus not subject to the legislation governing tourist lodgings.

The bill covers villas, residences and apartments used for tourism purposes.

But, as usual, various aspects that need clarification have come up during the discussions in parliament.

One example, said Angelos Votsis, chair of the House commerce committee, is whether the bill will also address apartments located in residential areas.

“It’s a matter that has yet to be cleared up,” he told reporters.

Realising the true scope of the bill, Disy’s Neophytou has since proposed that the bill, if passed, should enter into force no sooner than January 1, 2019.

This is to give time to the newly-established under-secretariat for tourism, which is still understaffed and under-equipped, to cope with the expected influx of applications for the special registry.

Akel deputy Costas Costa said though his party is in favour of regulating these accommodations, they have reservations as to whether the law could be properly enforced.

The bill contains intricate licensing procedures which would be impossible for the under-secretariat for tourism to implement. Moreover, Costa noted, it is doubtful whether self-catering accommodations would be able to comply with the raft of safety and technical specifications.

Costa therefore proposed that the government itself bring its own comprehensive bill.

“We do not under any circumstances wish, in our effort to solve one problem, to rush to decisions which could cause serious problems, perhaps even leading to the closure of self-catering accommodations which are the lifeline for hundreds of families, especially in rural areas.”

Regarding the rental of apartments for tourism purposes, MPs have inserted a clause requiring that their owners must beforehand secure the consent of the other owners and/or tenants in the same building bloc.

A dedicated registry is to be created for these residences, villas and apartments. This will be a different registry to that already in existence for hotels and tourist accommodations.

Each property thus registered would be assigned a number, which will be used in online advertising platforms so that punters may know whether the property in question is registered or not.

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