Airbnb is an online service and not an online property agent.
The European Court of Justice has ruled that it is an online information service. As such, it does not need to be regulated as though it were an agent.
The ruling has come after a French tourism association AHTOP complained about Airbnb, arguing that it should be considered an estate agent and subject to France’s strict licensing laws.
Several tourism associations have complained that Airbnb essentially runs an hotel business without having to abide by the rules that hotels have to operate under.
In the UK, the Airbnb trend has caused concern to agents where tenants’ have sub-let homes and rooms to short-stay visitors, mainly because of the fear that illegal HMOs could be created.
However, the new ruling makes clear that Airbnb is neither running an hotel nor an estate agency business but is an Information Society Service.
An airbnb spokesperson said: “We welcome this judgement and want to move forward and continue working with cities on clear rules that put local families and communities at the heart of sustainable 21st century travel.”
However AHTOP called the court’s decision “astonishing”.
In the UK, the Short Term Accommodation Association’s chair Merilee Karr said: “We welcome the clarification by the European Court of Justice about Airbnb’s status as an Information Society Service provider, and not a real estate agent.
“This provides a much greater degree of certainty and confidence for those of our members operating similar platforms, now that a legal precedent has been set.
“For those of our members based in the UK with Brexit ahead, these rules will apply for at least another year during the transition period contained within the Withdrawal Agreement Bill and may be longer lasting.
“For short term rental hosts and guests, there is little direct impact.
“The sector remains regulated in the UK, but from now on it will be unlawful to be made subject to additional regulations that currently apply to real estate providers.
“The UK government maintains the ability to regulate the home-sharing sector in the years ahead and the STAA looks forward to working together with stakeholders to ensure that his happens in a balanced and proportionate way.
“The UK STAA is committed to growing this vibrant sector in a responsible and sustainable way.
“We provide our members and the general public with help and guidance on regulations.
“Our aim is to improve standards throughout the industry, and we will continue our successful work with a diversity of stakeholders including government, local authorities, councils and tourism associations.”