Vienna court ratifies Airbnb municipal housing ban

Austria: The Higher Regional Court of Vienna has ratified the ban on Airbnb listings in municipal buildings – Gemeindebau – in the Austrian capital, two months after the home-sharing company agreed to remove listings in the city and implement a raft of measures to facilitate “responsible tourism”.

It follows the City of Vienna’s lawsuit victory against Airbnb in May, meaning that city-owned apartments in the city would no longer be available for subletting on platforms such as Airbnb. That ruling has now been made legally binding.

Last year, Vienna-based Wiener Wohnen, Europe’s largest public housing management service with 220,000 apartment rentals,   banned its tenants from subletting via Airbnb although the rules were not always followed. Wiener Wohnen took the issue to court and won, despite an appeal by Airbnb, which has been forced to take down all listings that can be considered public housing.

Airbnb has also agreed to the introduction of a range of measures in Vienna, including:

  • Airbnb will regularly inform its hosts in Vienna that accommodation in municipal housing should not be sublet and those who break the rules will be removed from the platform.
  • Airbnb will grant the city of Vienna access to the Airbnb city portal as its first partner in Austria. In this way, city authorities can inform the platform of any suspect listings that may be violating the ban on subletting apartments in municipal housing.
  • A nationwide digital registration process will be implemented for all Airbnb hosts in Austria. Similar to the existing systems that have been set up in the Netherlands, France and Spain, Airbnb will work alongside the EU Commission to provide regular rental statistics from cities in Austria, and tax data will continue to be shared with the country’s Ministry of Finance.
  • A telephone hotline is to be launched, meaning that neighbours, tenants or owners can report suspected illegal rentals or excessively loud parties discreetly to Airbnb.

The decision was lauded by local Councillor for Housing and vice mayo, Kathrin Gaal, who claimed the letting ban by the Higher Regional Court as a “very important” step towards protecting the city’s rental social and municipal housing system.

In a previous bid to reduce ‘over-tourism’, the city of Vienna amended its Tourism Promotion Act to make it mandatory for hosts to pay taxes on their income from short-term rentals, no matter how many days they were renting out for in a year.

For ten consecutive years between 2009 and 2019, Vienna was named as the best place in the world for the quality of life and corporate relocation purposes by Mercer’s Quality of Living Index. However, with demand for housing and short-term tourist accommodation on the rise, the city is concerned that it will lose its title and become less desirable for travellers as a result.

In 2019, Vienna joined forces with nine other European cities [Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, Bordeaux, Brussels, Krakow, Munich, Paris and Valencia] to appeal to the European Union to limit the proliferation of short-term rentals and help them manage critical local housing shortages by protecting their ability to regulate.

The EU, meanwhile, is reported to be consulting on regulating the short-term rental market across the bloc, with the option of a single set of pan-European rules being considered.