More Than 20,000 Airbnb Greek Properties Not Registered

(Photo by Eurokinissi/Tatiana Bollari)

ATHENS – Overwhelmed with apartments and homes being turned into short-term rentals – driving up rents and driving out Greeks – inspectors reportedly have found more than  20,000 properties aren’t registered as required, raising tax loss problems.

Those were tied to the world’s biggest short-term lease site, Airbnb, said Kathimerini and haven’t been put on an electronic registry to collect taxes on whatever revenue is generated from renters.

At least 130 property owners have also been detected with undeclared revenue from such short-term leasing, according to the Independent Public Revenues Authority.

Greek tax authorities are reportedly using “web scraping” to scan Airbnb’s vast platform to locate properties in the country not listed on the e-register, which was made mandatory by a law passed in 2017. Similar scrutiny of other competitor platforms, such as Booking.com and HomeAway, are pending, the paper said.

So far, more than 70,000 properties in the country have been registered as short-term lease dwellings. The fine for non-registry can be as high as 5,000 euros, ($5,619.) It wasn’t indicated why property owners would take such a risk with the apartments and homes openly visible and easily detectable on Airbnb and other short-term rental sites.

From the grimy, graffiti-filled anarchist stronghold of Exarchia, to the new trendy area neighborhood of Koukaki under the Acropolis with views of the Parthenon, whole swathes of buildings that were rentals or empty during Greece’s economic crisis are being filled.

Not with tenants but legions of tourists using short-term rentals like Airbnb or rich foreigners scooping them up to be eligible for five-year residency permits that come with European Union passports if they spend at least 250,000 ($280,950) euros on them.

That’s even if they don’t live in them, but rent them out, at far higher prices than what what beleaguered Greeks have been paying they try to scrape by and now are seeing themselves displaced by overnight or weekly or short stays in their former apartments now housing a transient parade of people from the United States to China to Russia and elsewhere.

GOLDEN TICKETS

It’s the selling of Athens through the so-called Golden Visa program which provides the residency permits and passports for rich foreign investors who bypass the notorious Greek bureaucracy that can even hold up dual citizenship or residency permit requests from those in the Diaspora.

In a feature, The New York Times reported on the Golden Visa and Airbnb twin phenomena that have combined to give some Greeks a bonanza in selling or using previously devalued properties for short-term rentals, but squeezed out others who can’t afford their apartments or are being pushed out to make way for the waves of tourists and new owners, particularly from China.

Carrie Law, CEO of Juwai.com, a Hong Kong-based real estate investment group, told the paper in March that Greece is a magnet for Chinese with enough money to buy property, because of  Golden Visas and that they don’t have to live in the properties they acquire.

She said many Chinese buyers come to Greece with suitcases filled with cash, the easiest way to get their money out of China, although it has led to investigations in that country over whether residents were circumventing money transfer laws and with critics saying the program can be used for money laundering and to hide criminal cash.

New hotels with views of the Acropolis are going up, leading residents in areas around the famed site to get the government to temporarily ban those blocking their view but with an investor boom underway, including the swank hotels and residential buildings apparently aimed at bringing in big buyers or lucrative short-term rentals that can bring in far more money than a monthly rent for what had been devalued apartments, some for 200 euros ($224.76) a month.