Airbnb is not a letting agency and instead should be classified as an online platform for people looking for short-term accommodation, the European Court of Justice has ruled.
This, it is claimed, will make it more difficult for local authorities to police the fast-growing online-only short lets sector that Airbnb has created, because many local regulations in the UK and elsewhere only apply to traditional letting agencies.
The court case was brought by France’s tourism authority which had argued that Airbnb should hold a professional estate agency licence and that, because it did not hold one, was in breach of French law.
The judges instead said Airbnb was an ‘information society service’ and not a letting agent.
The court’s decision has raised eyebrows. A similar case two years ago involving Uber went the other way. Judges decided that the company was a taxi service and not an online platform.
One of the key reasons for the judgement is that landlords have a choice where to advertise their properties to rent, but taxi drivers are exclusively contracted to Uber and therefore much more part of the organisation than an Airbnb landlord.
Airbnb has welcomed the judgement and said it wants to continue working with city authorities; for example three years ago it struct an agreement with London and Edinburgh councils to limit bookings to 90 days a year per property.
“We want to be good partners to everyone and already we have worked with more than 500 governments and authorities to help hosts share their homes, follow the rules and pay tax,” a company spokesman told the Techcrunch website.