Airbnb Just Made Itself Even More Unpopular in Barcelona

Organized criminals from Russia are subletting apartments to tourists, as locals struggle with soaring rents.

Relations between the ultimate disruptor of global tourism, Airbnb, and Barcelona City Council just took another turn for the worse following news that organized criminals from Russia are making massive profits by subletting apartments in Barcelona to tourists through the online site.

For the San Francisco-based company, any further damage to its Barcelona market could be very costly. With over 23,000 registered dwellings, the city is far and away the most important Spanish destination for the platform’s users and the sixth biggest in the world, behind Paris (1), London (2), New York (3), Rio (4) and Los Angeles (5), five cities that are significantly larger than Barcelona.

Last year the council slapped the company with a €30,000 fine for advertising lodgings that did not have permits to host tourists. The fine was later annulledby court order on the grounds that “sharing economy” regulation is currently in a legal vacuum. That hasn’t stopped the Council from imposing a 20-fold hike in the maximum fine that can be levied on home rental sites, to €600,000

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