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Spain’s Supreme Court allows Airbnb to advertise unlicensed tourist flats

Judges say platform is not responsible for content, overruling Catalan law

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20 January 2022 05:32 PM

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ACN | Barcelona

Spain’s Supreme Court ruled in favor of housing platform Airbnb in a decision that will allow the platform to publish ads for unlicensed tourist accommodations.

The sentence overturns the Catalan government law passed in 2015 forbidding the platform from publishing rentals that are not in the Catalan tourist accommodation registry. However, the court does rule that it is the responsibility of renters and not the platform to ensure that the accommodation is adequately registered.

Airbnb is just an "intermediary," the sentence reads, and it cannot be conceived of as an estate agent or a tourist service provider. One of the reasons is that the platform also advertises flats that do not have to be included in the Catalan registry.

The goal of the website is to "keep working with Catalan public administrations," according to an Airbnb press release following the verdict, which affirms their desire to help create a new law "adapted to the current reality of travel and that helps owners."

This Supreme Court ruling is in response to a 2019 Catalan High Court sentence in favor of the executive that was appealed by Airbnb.

Airbnb, a love-hate relationship with Catalonia

With one and a half million people staying in Airbnbs in Barcelona every year before the Covid-19 pandemic, the company has been at the heart of controversies and concerns about the 'touristification' of the city, which have even included protests by local residents.

In 2017, residents said tourism was at the top of their most pressing concerns about the city, with mayor, Ada Colau, running for office with a pledge to limit tourism, which has included such measures as a moratorium on building new hotels.

In 2018, Barcelona city council threatened to fine over 2,500 illegal tourist apartments advertised on Airbnb, and claimed to have reduced the number of unlicensed flats in the city from around 6,000 to about 3,000.

Barcelona’s number of tourist accommodations is "massive"

The number of apartments rented out to tourists in Barcelona is "massive" and out of proportion with the city's population, says the Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO).

Talking to the Catalan News Agency (ACN), the spokesperson for the Brussels-based research and campaign group, Kenneth Haar, pointed the finger at short-term rental platform, Airbnb.

"I don't think there's any doubt that the problems you see in Barcelona with access to affordable housing is related to Airbnb," Haar told ACN.

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  • Airbnb platform on July 11, 2019 (by Blanca Blay)

  • Airbnb platform on July 11, 2019 (by Blanca Blay)

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