Berlin court upholds Airbnb ban
A Berlin court Wednesday threw out a challenge against the German capital over a ban on private holiday rentals through online portals such as Airbnb.
A new law came into force in the city on May 1, banning property owners and tenants from renting out whole apartments or houses for short-term holiday lets.
Berlin authorities fear that the phenomenon of such private holiday rentals is fuelling rising property prices as investors snap up apartments for the lucrative market.
The plaintiffs, four property owners who had put up their apartments for temporary holiday lets, argued that such state interference ran counter to property ownership rights enshrined in the constitution.
But Berlin's administrative court rejected their arguments, saying the "ownership guarantee provides no claim for a residential property to be used with the expectation of making a profit".
It added that the authorities had also granted a two-year transition period to give affected property owners time to adjust.
The court also pointed out that the restriction did not affect registered holiday rental apartments and said that the wider ban in protected residential properties "is justified in order to counter the housing shortage".
The cases are among dozens filed since the law came into force, according to a spokesman for the administrative court.
The popularity of home-sharing sites like Airbnb and Wimdu has fuelled the private holiday rental market, and Berlin's authorities estimate that around 12,000 residential apartments are being used for such purposes.
The new law was passed in 2014 but provided for a two-year transition period that ended on April 30, after which owners are only allowed to rent out rooms via such portals, not entire flats or houses.
Offenders can face fines of up to 100,000 euros ($113,000) and neighbours are encouraged to report any suspected misuse online.
Rents in Berlin shot up 56 percent between 2009 and 2014, although at around 10 euros per square metre this year, they are still relatively low compared to other major European cities.
© 2016 AFP