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Some local lodging operators have been detected listing fraudulent registration numbers over the internet. Since 01 July, online platforms are required to display this code when promoting an “AL” property. The absence of a license draws fines of €3,740.98 for individuals and €35,000 for companies. Fraud is punishable by imprisonment.
ASAE inspectors are now searching ads of existing listings on online platforms such as Booking.com, Airbnb or Home Away to verify their Local Lodging registrations. As of 01 July, those advertising holiday lets on online platforms are required to display their “AL” registration licence number. It is currently estimated that approximately 20% of offerings are illegal. Failure to comply can lead to heavy fines for internet platforms and unlisted local lodging operators.
The consumer group, “Deco”, and the “PSP” warn of potential dangers with vacation rentals, especially when using the internet. Every year Deco receives dozens of complaints related to scams associated with holiday home lets. While the internet can be the dominant means of publicizing and reserving holidays, it is essential to use care, especially when making online payments.
The centrist party has presented a draft resolution to the legislature, recommending that the Government distinguish between occasional vs permanent provision of AL services. This suggested distinction preserves the notion of periodic operation of one’s principal residence and / or secondary residence. Under the proposal, the total number of properties under management should not exceed two.
According to the Hotel Association of Portugal, in November of last year, 25 operators had multiple “AL” registrations: between 51 and 300. Of these, seven were running more than a hundred properties as “Local Lodging establishments,” up to a maximum of three hundred. While the majority of owners let just one or two properties, current “AL” legislation fails to distinguish between those operating on a peer-to-peer basis and those running full-blown “horizontal” hotels.
Innovation in the regulation of local lodging has made Portugal a case study. Short term holiday letting is an integral part of the current Portuguese tourism boom. Dilapidated heritage districts in Lisbon and Oporto have a new lease on life with private investment driving much needed restoration. As with any phenomenon of rapid and disorderly growth, distortions have emerged. But this should not be a pretext to kill the chicken that lays the golden egg.
With all political parties submitting their own proposals, the parliamentary calendar will only consider changes to the law governing of local lodging next year. The ruling Socialist Party wants to make permission dependent on the approval of neighbors in condominiums.
Private student residence letting is a burgeoning business that reconciles some of the vagaries of short term lets common in local lodging with the stability of medium term rentals while avoiding the ongoing commitments endemic in long-term leases. In university cities like Lisbon, Porto and Coimbra, the average price for a student room currently runs around €350 per month.
In an interview with the “Jornal de Negócios” and “Antena 1“, the president of the Pestana group, José Theotónio, declared that: “Airbnb, Local Lodging and hostels are all welcome. They represent competition but are necessary to build Portugal as a cosmopolitan and sustainable tourist destination.” This statement signals a significant turn-around in the tradition hostility voiced by the hotel industry towards peer-to-peer holiday lettings.
As of 01 July, online letting platforms such as AirBnB and Booking can only list properties duly licensed in the National Tourist Registry. The obligation to enroll is part of a simplex initiative known as “Simpler Tourist Licenses”. With the new regulation, the Government intends to avoid unfair competition between property owners and tour operators as well as strengthen compliance.