HOUSING

Hosts in Barcelona take Airbnb to court

Fined by the city for listing apartments illegally, they claim the company did not warn them about the risks

Protesting against Airbnb in Barcelona.
Protesting against Airbnb in Barcelona.

They listed their apartments on Airbnb without having a municipal license to operate as tourist accommodation, and the city of Barcelona fined them with amounts of between €30,000 and €60,000.

Around 100 people who have come together via an association named ACABA have now brought a class-action suit against Airbnb, claiming that the company encouraged them to advertise their homes without warning that they could be sanctioned.

Members of ACABA listed and rented their own homes (or rooms) only sporadically

The claim, which has been admitted by the court, accuses the company of creating confusion – by encouraging them to list their homes without warning that doing so is illegal without a license, and failing to demand this license – and of unfair competition –because they could be hosts and guests simultaneously. Plaintiffs are seeking damages over the fines they had to pay the city.

Members of ACABA listed and rented their homes or rooms only sporadically, according to the president of the association, Neal Shanahan. He only rented his own residence once for two weeks, earned €1,500 and declared the amount to the Tax Agency. “We rented our homes convinced that it was allowed,” he complains.

Dylan Tarin, the lawyer for ACABA, wants the city to provide information about the 5,000 fines it has sent out, in the hopes that this list could help attract new plaintiffs to the suit.

An Airbnb spokesperson said that the company “is concerned about every person who has been affected or confused by obsolete tourism legislation. We will continue to support the view that families who share their homes should be heard and should have a voice. Airbnb wants to be a good partner to the Barcelona community and we will keep working with government agencies to achieve fairer, clearer regulations.”

Barcelona city officials reached an agreement last May with Airbnb to delete all listings without a license. In November 2016, Barcelona fined homesharing websites Airbnb and Homeaway €600,000 each for advertising and renting out apartments to tourists without a license as part of a crackdown on unregulated tourism in the city. Barcelona is run by the leftist mayor Ada Colau, herself a former housing activist.

English version by Sofia Alonso, Marc Ferrer and Mariona Rodríguez.

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Since November 2016, the Catalan edition of EL PAÍS, Elpais.cat, has been publishing a selection of news stories in English.

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