Should I rebook my German airbnb on a private site?
June 16, 2016 1:12 AM   Subscribe

Germany no longer allows whole apartments to be rented via airbnb. My host has requested we move my booking to a private website. Is this a good idea?

Waaaay back in January I booked a lovely flat in Berlin for a stay in mid July. Since then, Germany has changed its laws and is fining airbnb hosts huge amounts for renting out their places in this way.

My host got in touch to request that we move the booking off airbnb and onto her private booking website. She called me to request this - no comms have gone through airbnb's message system.

I instinctively don't want to do this, and was going to ask her to cancel the booking so I could just book a hotel instead. Hotels are still reasonable so that's not an issue.

However, the apartment is so lovely and I do sympathise with my host - things have changed outside of her control!

Metafilter, what would you do? Cancel the booking and get a hotel; or trust her and move to a private booking agreement?
posted by citands to Travel & Transportation (6 answers total)
My bad - it looks like it's not Germany as a whole, just Berlin. Still - that's where I'm going!
posted by citands at 1:26 AM on June 16, 2016

Ultimately, it's up to you but I'd be wary. It's unfortunate that the new ruling negatively affects your previous plans but I'd be extra careful. How about contacting Airbnb directly and see what they say about your situation? What third party site did she recommend? Does it come with insurance and the safeguards that Airbnb does? How are reviews online?

It's not uncommon for Germans to sublet their apartments while they're away but it's a bit different since you're coming from England and surely want more security. German housing laws are meant to protect renters' rights but without an official contract or at least something like Airbnb, you are the one who stands to lose the most in the end if something goes wrong.

Whatever you decide, I'd make sure you get a full refund -- 100% -- from Airbnb before you proceed. As you probably know, you've already paid the rental fee and it's being held by Airbnb. Your host may not be trying to scam you but her lack of experience could mean you still get screwed over in the end. The fact that she randomly contacted you about this, presenting it as the only other option, feels off-putting to me. Hopefully someone on Metafilter has experience with this and can give better advice but I'd definitely start by contacting Airbnb directly and see what they recommend in your special situation.
posted by smorgasbord at 1:31 AM on June 16, 2016

The AIrBNB approach is to only release funds the days after the guest arrives IIRC, which gives time to make sure everything is in order. You could offer the same here - payment after arrival.
posted by pharm at 1:34 AM on June 16, 2016

Is the apartment part of a registered business, or is it just an apartment that the host owns? There's an apartment in the Netherlands that I've booked through AirBnB a few times, but it's actually a legit bed and breakfast; that is, it's not somebody's home or vacation house, it's a business. The owner just uses AirBnB in addition to his own website for the publicity and convenience. In that type of situation, I would feel comfortable using a private booking site. In the Netherlands, a registered business has a "KvK number" from the chamber of commerce; Germany (and/or Berlin in particular) probably has the same type of identifier, and I would look for that info on the private site.

If it appears that this is a more typical AirBnB-type situation -- that is, it's her home, a vacation home, or a place she bought for the purpose of renting out but hasn't registered as a business -- I'd probably err on the side of caution and book a hotel instead.
posted by neushoorn at 1:39 AM on June 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

For what it's worth, this Berlin ban didn't just come out of the blue. The law was passed two years ago, and the deadline was this past spring. So I'm not sure why she accepted a booking for mid-July anyway. That alone would make me cautious. It might not be an officially registered holiday rental. I mean, none of that is stuff that necessarily affects you as a guest, but it does suggest she may not be on the up-and-up.
posted by tiger tiger at 2:55 AM on June 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

Thanks all. I've decided to ask the host to cancel the airbnb booking (so that I don't get charged via airbnb - I've been stung that way before!) and rebook a hotel.

Thanks for the timing heads up tiger tiger - I agree that she shouldn't have accepted the booking.

Ultimately there probably isn't anything more nefarious here than a small business owner trying to get around some rather unfair local restrictions with no intention of swindling their guests - but I'm not adventurous enough to take that risk!
posted by citands at 4:04 AM on June 16, 2016

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