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Tuesday's papers: Calls to control Airbnb rentals, debt collector fined, e-scooter injuries

Moves to limit Airbnb apartment rentals, a 200K fine for a debt collector and some e-scooter mishaps linked to alcohol.

Image: Dmytro Zinkevych / AOP

Apartment owners could soon have to notify their housing associations of the number of residents or guests they expect to host every year, if the lobby group for landlords and property owners gets its way. The Finnish Real Estate Federation, FREF, is calling for clear new rules for the kinds of short-term rentals typical of the online hospitality service Airbnb.

According to national daily Helsingin Sanomat, the organisation has proposed reforms to legislation governing housing companies as well as city zoning and construction in a bid to tame the booming trade. One key measure the group is pushing is an annual limit to the number of persons allowed to use apartments designated for residential use.

"Exceeding that number would constitute misuse [of the property]. The housing association would then have the opportunity to intervene by taking the apartment under its management," FREF’s senior legal specialist Virpi Heinonen said in a statement.

In Finland, housing companies own and run most apartment blocks, while homeowners buy shares in the company in exchange for use of their flats. The system allows them to pool the risk and cost of maintenance and major repairs with other members of the housing company.

FREF also wants resident homeowners to be obligated to inform housing companies about all the users of their properties, potentially using some form of electronic filing system. The lobby group said that it has received many requests for advice on Airbnb operations.

"The current situation is causing uncertainty and disputes, since housing companies don’t know on what terms to permit accommodation services or when to intervene," it said in the statement. It also called on city building supervisors to provide guidelines on the matter.

200K fine for collections firm

Tabloid daily Iltalehti highlights the case of a collections firm forced to swallow a dose of its own medicine, as Finland’s Market Court ruled to uphold the revocation of its operating license and also slapped it with a 200,000-euro fine for repeated shortcomings.

Back in January, the southern Finland regional administrative authority had revoked the debt recovery license held by collections firm Alektum over major deficiencies in its operations. Officials found that the firm had repeatedly sent consumers more collection letters than the law allowed over unpaid bills for the same subscription product. It also charged customers excessively for the payment reminders.

The Consumer and Competition Authority KKV, also noted that Alektum’s unlawful activities related to subscription products sold to consumers over the phone or online. Customers typically ordered underwear, blades for shaving sets as well as health supplements and weight loss products from firms such as Westerfield, MMBG and Fennotuonti. Earlier this year, the consumer watchdog warned consumers about the firm's shady practices.

The Southern Finland regional administrative authority is responsible for monitoring collections firms throughout the country to ensure that their operations are lawful and conform to good practice. The agency also has the authority to ban unregistered debt recovery firms.

Alcohol + e-scooters = injuries

Another tabloid, Ilta-Sanomat looks at the summery electric scooters that have taken over cities like Helsinki, Tampere and Turku. Specifically, the paper reports that in Helsinki at least, the two-wheelers have already sent about two dozen users to hospital due to injuries sustained on the move.

According to chief medical officer Mika Paavola of the Töölö hospital, the most common mishaps result in injuries to the face, upper extremities and chest. He also noted that alcohol had been a factor in some accidents.

"It’s quite common for the front wheel to get stuck on the edge of the pavement or somewhere and then the user flies over the handle bars. People then brace with their arms, but they may not always be strong enough and they may end up face-first on the asphalt," Paavola said, describing a typical case.

"Face injuries aren’t just a few scratches, but fractures and broken teeth," he added, noting that medical staff have also treated more serious cases such as concussions and even worse.

Since the Töölö accident and emergency unit began tracking statistics about scooter injuries at the end of March it has recorded about 20 cases, the equivalent of up to four accidents weekly. During the Midsummer weekend alone, another four cases were logged. Paavola noted that since not all patients seek medical attention in Töölö, "this is just the tip of the iceberg,".

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