Last Wednesday (April 12), The city of Vienna won its lawsuit against the online rental hub Airbnb, over whether the company could feature council flats (Gemeindewohnungen) on its platform. City representatives had previously provided Airbnb with the addresses of 220,000 city-owned apartments and requested several times that they block them on their platform as subletting subsidized council housing is in fact prohibited, but their demands were ultimately rejected by the company.
Airbnb had instead offered to block all Gemeindewohnungen as long as the city notified them of each one individually. City hall retorted that such an undertaking was not feasible. The dispute eventually the municipal government taking legal action against the company, filing suit in commercial court in July last year.
“It is reasonable to expect platforms like Airbnb to support the city in preventing illicit activities like subletting council apartments. It is inefficient – and in some cases impossible – for city employees to check every individual advertisement,” city councilor for public housing Kathrin Gaal stated.
The court eventually ruled in Vienna’s favor, with the official verdict reading as follows: The defendant is guilty and is required to stop publishing advertisements for renting or subletting all known apartments belonging to the city of Vienna on the internet, in particular under the airbnb.at and airbnb.com domains.
According to Viennese authorities, the decision, which is still open to appeal, will have repercussions beyond Airbnb’s ability to feature government-owned apartments on their site. The verdict may also bar Airbnb from advertising privately-owned properties which don’t allow subletting or are subject to other restrictions. In a statement to the Austrian Press Agency (APA), the company announced that they will examine the judgement and release an official statement shortly. “We take the preservation of living space in Vienna very seriously and want to assist the city in protecting council housing. We will now consider how to find a mutually-agreeable solution and wish to continue having a constructive working relationship with the city of Vienna,” an Airbnb spokesperson told APA, reiterating that they already offered to purge all council apartments from their website as soon they’re notified last year.