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Want to use Airbnb in Berlin? You'd better be okay with having flatmates

Looking to secure a rental through Airbnb in Berlin? You’d better be comfortable with having flatmates. Total privacy in someone else’s home is now illegal in the capital of Germany, as officials implemented a new law this month that makes renting out an entire apartment a crime punishable by a fine of up to $115,000.

Known as Zweckentfremdungsverbot (“prohibition of improper use”), the law was first passed back in 2014, but has only just gone into effect in Berlin. And while it’s not a complete shutdown of Airbnb, it’s the latest in a series of attempts by cities across the world to clamp down on the company’s effects on the housing market.

Calling the new law “a necessary and sensible instrument” to maintain housing prices at a reasonable level for Germans, Andreas Geisel, Berlin’s head of urban development, praised the new legislation. While rent in Berlin is less expensive than that of other major cities in Europe, it hasn’t been immune to rising costs in the last several years. Prices have gone up by 56 percent since 2009, and officials claim that Airbnb and other hotel alternatives have compounded the city’s housing shortage.

Airbnb’s alleged influence on the housing market has been particularly pronounced on its home turf of San Francisco, where officials are promising a harsh crackdown on the many properties that violate city ordinances. But as Airbnb’s community grows internationally, so, too, have its problems.

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“Berliners want clear and simple rules for home sharing, so they can continue to share their own home with guests,” said Airbnb spokesman Julian Trautwein. “We will continue to encourage Berlin policymakers to listen to their citizens and to follow the example of other big cities such as Paris, London, Amsterdam or Hamburg and create new, clear rules for normal people who are sharing their own homes.”

Some Berliners are none too pleased about the new rule, with one 48-year-old telling the Guardian that the legislation forces citizens to pay for the city’s failed housing policy. “In Germany, of all places,” she said, “Maybe we should reconsider this kind of thing.”