The home-share platform has lost its long-running legal battle against the regional government of Catalonia, meaning it is expected to take down around 12,000 listings in the region because they don’t comply with local regulations.
After a process that has taken five years, Catalonia’s Supreme Court of Justice (TSJC) has sided with the Tourist Board of the Generalitat (Catalan regional government) against the American home-share platform Airbnb, in ruling that the listings must be taken down for failure to comply with local tourism regulations.
According to the regulations in Catalonia, all tourist rentals must have a valid rental licence number, which must be displayed in all advertising listings on rental platforms like Airbnb, Booking.com, TripAdvisor, Apartur, Homeaway, and Rentalia. All other rental platforms have agreed to abide by this rule, but Airbnb has argued that, as a platform, it is not responsible for complying with local regulations, which is the responsibility of owners in different regions.
Catalan authorities claim that Airbnb was advertising around 12,000 listings for short-term stays without a valid tourist rental licence number, either because they didn’t have one (5,343 instances), or because the number was wrong (6,478).
The majority of the properties that Airbnb has been ordered to take down are located in Barcelona city, where the local authority has been battling with Airbnb and the landlords who use it in a separate process. As things stand Airbnb has agreed to take down specific listings at the request of Barcelona City Hall.
Airbnb provides a license or registration number field for all listings, but allows listings to be published without one. The Generalitat argues that Airbnb should not publish any listing that does not have a valid tourist rental licence number, an argument that is now legally binding in Catalonia in the light of the court ruling made public this month.
Airbnb had better news this month from the European Court of Justice, which rejected a suit by a French tourism association known as Ahtop arguing that Airbnb should be regulated like a property agent not a platform.
Regional authorities at all levels of the Catalan government, from the Generalitat down to municipalities, have taken one of the hardest lines in Spain with tourist rentals and home-sharing platforms lead by Airbnb.
What happens next? If Airbnb does not take measures to ensure that all listings in Catalonia include a valid tourist rental licence number, the Generalitat can seek a judicial order to have them taken down with the latest ruling in hand.