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Barcelona isn't messing around with Airbnb anymore, levying fines and removing listings

Airbnb hosts in New York had better hope that Ashton Kutcher and Peter Thiel’s letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo works in its favor, otherwise the rental giant may be looking at a similar fate to hosts in Barcelona. The regulatory nightmare that is Airbnb was dealt another blow this week, as authorities in Barcelona began cracking down on homes that were illegally rented out, removing them from listings and levying fines. And officials say that if the unauthorized rentals don’t end, companies can expect to be hit in the wallet again.

On Wednesday, the Spanish city declared that it would fine Airbnb and Homeaway, another online rental firm, nearly $67,000 each. Should these companies ignore this initial warning, the town hall promised much more aggressive fines, up to $670,000 per firm. For its part, Airbnb has already promised to appeal such fines.

Thus far, 256 apartments in Barcelona have been removed from online rental sites, and another 400 properties are currently under investigation.

A number of cities have also encouraged neighbors to blow the whistle on potential Airbnb rule breakers, and Barcelona is joining their ranks. The city is creating a multi-lingual website that allows individuals to expose unlicensed tourist accommodations, as well as instituting a toll-free number for people to call in illegal activity. Apparently, 375 complaints were made on the website in the last month alone.

Europe has been none too friendly to Airbnb this year, with a number of other cities taking similar action in months past. Parisian officials recently carried out raids on some rental properties, while authorities in Berlin decided to ban renting entire properties via platforms like Airbnb. In response to the German law, Airbnb spokesman Julian Trautwein said, “Berliners want clear and simple rules for home sharing, so they can continue to share their own home with guests. 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.”