Airbnb urges housing reform in Berlin after court overturns permit rejection

Airbnb celebrates partial victory over Berlin housing law change that Last year led to a total crackdown on short-term rentals of entire homes to visitors to the city. The municipal authorities had formulated the movement as a necessary measure to address housing shortages affecting residents.

While there hasn’t been a formal change to the law yet, the latest developments are blowing in a favorable direction for Airbnb.

This is a legal action brought by a private individual living in the Berlin district of Pankow against the State of Berlin in the Administrative Court of Berlin after he was refused a permit to rent his own house – a measure that city authorities have used to essentially control the use of home-sharing platforms like Airbnb.

The court recommended that he obtain a permit so that he could let his house for short-term tourist rentals for 182 days a year – overturning the earlier denial of permission on the grounds that there is no public interest in the preservation of housing if the premises are already used for residential purposes.

In a Press release Detailing the outcome, the law firm involved in the case interprets the ruling as sweeping – suggesting that other Berliners could take similar steps to seek to overturn other permit denials, and expect to get the same as well. permission to rent their accommodation for up to 182 days. Therefore, Airbnb considers this a victory.

Although in reality there are still big hurdles for Berliners wanting to rent entire apartments on Airbnb, given that it looks like they would probably have to fight reluctant city officials in court to get permission. (without which they risk a fine of up to €100,000).

Still, Airbnb clearly hopes the court ruling will eventually open a significant crack in Berlin’s regulatory roadblock by pushing for more formal law reform in its favor.

In a Blog development post that he presents Berlin’s housing law as both “complex and confusing” and “broken” – arguing that it “needs to be fixed”.

He also refers to a decision taken last year, also by Berlin administrative courtwhich ruled that authorizations must be granted to hosts renting second homes.

He ends the blog with an offer to work with city authorities to provide “legal certainty to local citizens and collaborate on modern home-sharing rules.”

When asked if Airbnb helped fund the individual’s case against the city, an Airbnb spokesperson replied, “We’re not a party to the case.”

Commenting on the case in a statement, Dr Christian Eckart, a lawyer for the law firm concerned, Redeker Sellner Dahs, called for an urgent reflection on the legal situation to move towards clarity of the regulatory regime.

“The citizens of Berlin must not receive their right to short-term tenancy only through legal proceedings,” he said.

At the time of this writing, the Berlin Department of Urban Development and Housing had not responded to a request for comment.

To update: The ministry has now responded, pointing out that the court decision relates to only one case, and also denying that it was involved in the decision or recommending the decision. He adds that there are no plans to change the current ban based on this unique case. And affirms on the contrary that the intention remains to reform the law “with the aim of a more comprehensive protection of housing”.

Here is his statement on the “Misappropriation Prohibition Act” (Zweckentfremdungsverbotsgesetz) in German, which we have included below in English (translated via Google Translate):

die benannte Einzelfallentscheidung des Bezirks ist weder mit uns abgestimt noch beruht sie auf einer Empfehlung durch uns. Das Zweckentfremdungsverbot ist geprägt durch die Einzelfallbetrachtung der Teilaspekte jedes einzelnen Falles. Eine notwendige Prozessführung im Ergebnis einer Einzelfallprüfung erfolgt grundsätzlich in Eigenverantwortung der Bezirke. Die Behauptung der Anwaltskanzlei, dass die Gestattung der 182 Tage in Absprache mit der Senatsverwaltung für Stadtentwicklung und Wohnen erfolgt sei, ist falsch. Falsch ist auch, in diesem Fall von einem Urteil zu sprechen: Es handelt sich nur um einen einzelfallbezogenen, auf Hinweis des Gerichts erfolgten, Vergleich. Präzedenzfälle ergeben sich in der Regel nur aus richterlichen Urteilssprüchen.
Eine Anpassung des Zweckentfremdungsverbotsgesetzes allein auf Grund diesen Vergleichs ist also weder geplant noch notwendig. Es wird keine „Kehrtwende“ beim Zweckentfremdungsgesetz geben. Im Gegenteil: das Gesetz soll mit dem Ziel eines umfassenderen Wohnraumschutzes rechtssicher überarbeitet werden.

[The designated individual case decision of the district is neither co-ordinated with us nor based on a recommendation by us. The prohibition of misuse of purpose is characterized by the individual case consideration of the partial aspects of each individual case. A necessary process control as a result of a single-case inspection is basically carried out by the authorities themselves. The allegation of the law firm that the permission of the 182 days in consultation with the senate administration for urban development and living was done is wrong. It is also wrong to speak of a judgment in this case: it is only a case-by-case comparison which is based on a reference to the court. As a rule, precedents arise only from judicial verdicts.
It is therefore neither planned nor necessary to adapt the prohibition of the prohibition of the use of property on the sole basis of this comparison. There will be no “sweeping” in the purpose of misuse. On the contrary, the law is to be revised by law with the aim of a more comprehensive protection of housing.]

Berlin isn’t the only city where Airbnb’s business growth is being held back by regulators addressing housing concerns.

In Barcelona, ​​the city authorities have also been cracking down on short-term tourist rentals for several years – barely last month announcing that they would increase the number of inspectors whose job it is to try to identify illegal rentals.

In July Airbnb has agreed to work with Barcelona to remove listings “that could affect the availability of long-term accommodation in Barcelona”, as well as to evict illegal commercial operators using the site – calling it a closer relationship between it and the local government , and claiming he will have “zero tolerance for bad actors”.

At the time, Airbnb trumpeted that it had removed “more than 1,300 listings that may affect the availability of long-term accommodation in Barcelona“. While the city authorities countered that there were still around 5,000 to 6,000 “illegal tourist rentals”. So there’s still a pretty big gap to fill there.

The Catalan city has seen anti-tourism protests intensify in recent years, and Airbnb is a frequent target as a perceived contributor to inflated rents that critics say are driving families away and harming local communities.

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