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In Paris, only main residences can be freely rented as furnished tourist accommodation. Image Credit: Reuters

Paris: The city of Paris said on Monday that its tough restrictions on the online accommodation service Airbnb were working, pointing to fewer violations of the code this year in the French capital but stiffer fines.

Airbnb use has grown dramatically in recent years across the world, with the service allowing users to find accommodation in a private home rather than a hotel.

But criticism has also increased alongside its growth, with entire buildings used for Airbnb short term renting in some towns and cities, changing the character of areas, forcing locals out and closing schools.

In Paris, only main residences can be freely rented as furnished tourist accommodation, provided that they are declared to the town hall and within a limit of 120 days per year. The rules are even tougher if the property is a second home.

Paris, which hosts the summer Olympics next year when accommodation is expected to be at a premium, in 2021 won approval from France's Court of Cassation for its restrictions, with the instance ruling they were in line with EU law.

Since then, it has raked in 6.5 million euros in fines issued by the courts.

But this amount is falling as infractions dwindle, standing at 535,000 euros over the first seven months of 2023, for 65 cases judged, compared with 3.5 million in 2021 and 2.5 million in 2022, when a total of 370 cases had been processed.

"The regulatory arsenal" of the city "is working, there are fewer infringements", the city hall said in a statement, adding that the high figures of litigation in 2021 and 2022 were due to cases being suspended pending a ruling from the EU.

At the same time, the average size of fines has risen: whereas it was 15,000 euros in 2022 at first instance (22,000 on appeal), it now stands at 20,000 euros (31,000 on appeal) this year.

"The courts are more severe," said Ian Brossat, the deputy mayor in charge of housing, adding "judges now assume that those who cheat do so knowingly".

A "multi-rental" owner from the 16th district of Paris even received the maximum fine of 50,000 euros, an unprecedented sanction, added Brossat, who represents France's Communist Party.