LAWMAKERS on Tuesday said they were almost ready to bring a bill regulating the operation of short-term Airbnb-style property rentals to a vote, although one major issue still needs to be ironed out.
The pending question relates to the ease with which individuals would be able to rent out apartments in residential buildings.
There are two schools of thought on this. Under the first anyone should be able to rent out their apartment. If subsequently the other owners in the building complain, a provision in the law would allow them to file their complaint to the junior ministry for tourism.
The other school of thought is that permission to rent out an apartment should be subject to the agreement of a building’s management committee or the majority of the apartment owners.
The legislative proposal provides for a three-year transition period to be afforded to current Airbnb renters to acquire a VAT number and comply with safety and health regulations – pre-conditions for registering their properties.
The aim is to create a dedicated registry for short-term self-catering accommodation and then taxing that income, bringing cash into state coffers.
Each property thus registered is to 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.
The bill covers villas, residences and apartments used for tourism purposes.
Earlier, the House commerce committee had heard there are 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.
Speaking in parliament on Tuesday, Akel MP Costas Costa reiterated concerns that enforcing strict licensing criteria might disqualify many who now rent their properties on a short-term basis.
It could impact hundreds of families living in the countryside who rely on this practice to earn income, he said.
The legislative proposal will amend an upcoming law which is to be voted on February 15. The government bill governs hotel and tourist accommodation, and purports to simplify licensing and classification procedures.
The legislative proposal will be put to the House floor after the government bill has passed.