Amsterdam Airbnb hosts are in gray area after court ruling

Map showing Airbnb locations in central Amsterdam

People who rent their homes to tourists through platforms like Airbnb will operate in a gray area until new national legislation comes into effect this summer, according to legal experts.

On Wednesday, the State Council said it was illegal to rent a property to tourists without a permit because owners are effectively removing a house from the national housing stock.

The decision, which was unexpected, gave a boost to those campaigning against vacation rental platforms, and Amsterdam Alderman Laurens Ivens said it was an important step in the fight of the city against the explosive growth of vacation rentals.

In formal terms, the ruling means that anyone who rents property to tourists without a permit is breaking the law. However, no local authority has actually implemented a licensing system to rent to tourists.

Lawyers are divided on what people should do now. Victor Oranje of WS Advocaten, said the owners of the Volkskrant would have to apply for a permit anyway, so they are covered if the councils start implementing the new law. In contrast, Jim Friedrich of Quest Advocaten suggests people wait and see what happens next.

However, others warn that the situation would be even more complicated if neighbors complained to the city that houses were being rented out illegally, as the councils would then be forced to act.

Well

The Council of State ruling came in the case of a woman who appealed a € 6,000 fine from the Amsterdam City Council for failing to register the fact that she was renting her property to tourists Americans.

The fine was found to be illegal because she had been fined for the wrong reasons. Instead, the court said, she should have been fined for breaking the housing law, which is punishable by a fine of € 20,500 – three times the other charge.

Lawyers now say other people fined for failing to comply with Amsterdam’s statutes could challenge this in court, based on the Council of State’s ruling.

New legislation

The gray area, however, is only expected to last until the summer, when the government aims to pass new legislation covering vacation rentals. These national rules will allow local authorities to require that vacation rentals be registered in areas where accommodation is scarce.

This registration number must then be included in ads on platforms such as Airbnb.

But the platforms have already made it clear that they won’t force owners to include the registration number, leading activists to say the legislation doesn’t go far enough.

Acting Housing Minister Stientje van Veldhoven said late last year that websites like Airbnb could not be forced to forward information to boards for verification as it would violate guidelines of the EU who see vacation rental websites as information platforms.

“Bigger measures will require long-term lobbying in Brussels,” she told the NRC.

Airbnb said in a statement that it wants to work with governments to help hosts follow the rules. “Such situations are confusing, which is why we have supported calls for a European regulator for digital services,” the company said. “This would provide a clearer, more consistent and predictable process for the establishment of rules and regulations in Europe.”

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