EU court rules that Airbnb isn’t a property broker

Despite calls for tougher regulations on the accommodation-booking service Aribnb, the European court has ruled that the firm won’t need an estate agent’s licence to operate, following a court case in France.

The French tourism association has raised concerns that the firm doesn’t comply with French property laws and would causing problems in housing markets, especially in big cities. Other EU members have made similar complaints.

In a joint letter to the Commission earlier this year, Amsterdam, Berlin, Barcelona, Vienna, Valencia, Paris, Brussels, Bordeaux, Krakow, and Munich wrote that “explosive growth” in the short-term lettings industry had been damaging to residents.

They said: “We believe cities are best placed to understand their residents’ needs. They have always been allowed to regulate local activity through urban planning and housing rules. The advocate general seems to imply this will no longer be possible when it comes to internet giants.”

“The cities are not against this type of holiday rental. Tourism provides a city with income and jobs. They do think they should be able to set rules. We need strong legal obligations for platforms to cooperate with us in registration schemes and in supplying rental data for the properties on their platforms.”

Airbnb allows users to rent out rooms or properties on a short-term basis. But, France’s Association for Professional Tourism and Accommodation (AHTOP) claim that the company is acting as an estate agent, and should follow those regulations.

However, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU)’s has made the decision that Airbnb won’t need to follow stricter rules, as it’s not a property broker, it is, as claimed by the company, an “information society service”.

The CJEU said that Airbnb is not an estate agent because it’s not connected to any property business, property owners are renting their own properties – and can still rent them out through other channels, and Airbnb has no control over rates that are charged.

This means that users of the app won’t have to face disruptions to its service in Europe. The court said the decision was based on how much control the app had over transactions. Airbnb said it would “move forward and continue working with cities”.

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