Modern residential towers in Helsinki, Source: Depositphotos

Finnish cities to require permits for Airbnb hosts not living on their properties

Finnish cities to require permits for Airbnb hosts not living on their properties

The aim is to curb the ‘professionalization’ of short-term rentals

Finnish cities and municipalities have banded together through the Building Inspection Association to introduce a change of rules aimed at homeowners who turn their properties into professional or permanent short-term rentals. One of the new rules will require the owners doing this, to apply for a permit as a business operation.

The measure is specifically aimed at the private rental service Airbnb, which tends to be used by tourists and digital nomads. The Association argues that this should apply to hosts who don’t live on their properties and use them as a permanent income-generating operation, thus changing the nature of how the property is used.

We are now drawing the line as to when a change of use is needed. If a dwelling is converted into accommodation, that is a material change of use," explained Leena Salmelainen, inspections director at the City of Turku administration, as quoted by Yle news agency.

Questioning the nature of Airbnb

The attitude towards Airbnb lettings in Finnish cities has been somewhat mixed, with guidelines and even the law often interpreted in different ways. The needs of cities and municipalities are also different.

With the new rules, cities are hoping to have a more standard nationwide view on short-term rentals, though building inspectors in urban areas will still have the discretion to decide when to intervene.

In Leena Salmelainen's view, the differing attitudes towards short-term rentals can be explained by how much residents of certain cities have found the activity harmful, and how much they have raised objections with local authorities.

Some cities, such as Rovaniemi, in Lapland (home of Santa Claus), rely heavily on tourism for their economies, so the authorities are relaxed towards the proliferation of Airbnb. In others, such as Helsinki or Tampere, however, there were local rules even before the current guidelines were released. These were necessitated by the fact that many neighbours have complained about permanent short-term rental spaces due to noise and nuisance.

Several municipalities have stated there is a need for overall legislation at the national level. The government has started to prepare a regulation on short-term rentals as part of the Building Act, which will enter into force in 2025.



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