Airbnb awaits Berlin decision on legality of home sharing

BERLIN (Reuters) – A Berlin city court is due to hand down a landmark ruling on Wednesday with ramifications for home rental companies such as Airbnb when deciding whether landlords can engage in short-term rentals.

A man walks past an Airbnb logo after a news conference in Tokyo, Japan November 26, 2015. REUTERS/Yuya Shino

Several flatshare companies have filed a complaint against an effective ban on such rentals in Berlin in the first substantial challenge to the law in this city in Europe.

People renting their accommodation in the German capital for periods of less than two months face fines of up to 100,000 euros ($111,700). Although homeowners can apply for a permit, city officials said they will deny 95% of applications.

The Berlin showdown comes a week after the European Commission warned member states against erecting roadblocks or even outright bans on the emerging ‘sharing economy’ in everything from apartments to local rides, applying laws that are decades or even centuries old.

Airbnb and other home-sharing companies, such as Rocket Internet’s Wimdu, have sought legal advice from the former head of the city of Berlin’s constitutional court following the Berlin crackdown. Helge Sodan ruled the new settlement unconstitutional and drafted the complaint.

Airbnb, whose website lists 11,700 apartments in Berlin, did not join as a plaintiff, but a company spokesperson said the verdict would impact Airbnb’s business and that it watched closely.

Berlin authorities estimate that a total of 15,000 apartments have been taken out of the city’s rental market to be operated as tourist accommodation businesses. City officials say rising rents and a major housing shortage have left them with no choice but to impose the measures.

Home rental groups say the city is using the new legislation to whitewash structural housing problems, turning short-term roommate companies into scapegoats.

Although a positive verdict would not have binding legal consequences for other jurisdictions, experts expect it to have repercussions across Europe, as cities try to balance the interests of the travel and tourism industry with those tenants who fear rising rents.

“Cities are watching each other closely to see what kinds of regulations are possible and Berlin’s verdict will surely have an impact on the behavior of other cities,” said Gracia Vara Arribas, a lawyer who has advised the EU on the economy. of sharing.

Additional reporting by Ashutosh Pandey; Editing by Ludwig Burger, Andreas Cremer and Alexander Smith

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