Airbnb ordered to disclose data on 'hosts' in Munich

Out-Law News | 18 Dec 2018 | 9:30 am | 1 min. read

Airbnb has been ordered to disclose details about its 'hosts' in Munich to the city's local authority.

The Munich administrative court ruled that the disclosure was necessary to help the City of Munich undertake monitoring under local housing laws.

Via its platform, Airbnb enables people to rent out their homes to tourists. However, in Munich, home owners are prohibited from entering into short term leases for a total period of more than eight weeks in a calendar year unless they obtain prior approval from the city authorities. The law is designed to address the shortage of housing in Munich.

The City of Munich asked Airbnb to provide it with all advertisements for rooms in the city which exceeded the permissible maximum lease period. Specifically, for the period from January 2017 to July 2018, it wanted Airbnb to disclose the addresses of the apartments offered as well as the names and addresses of the hosts.

Airbnb challenged the request before the administrative court in Munich, but its complaint was dismissed.

The court first ruled that Airbnb, despite having its registered office in Ireland, must comply with national laws of Germany because of its activities in the country. It considered that Ireland was not responsible for monitoring compliance with the housing laws in Munich and the fact that Irish law did not apply in the case.

The court then held that, as a measure for monitoring, the request for information was permissible under EU law. It said that because Airbnb acts as an intermediary for the housing, it is obligated to cooperate by making the names and addresses of the hosts available to the Munich authorities.

The court said alternative means of monitoring were not available and considered the fact that Munich's housing law and the associated request for information are constitutional. It said that requiring the disclosure of personal data does not conflict with data protection law.

The Munich authority's threat to impose a €300,000 fine on Airbnb if it did not comply with its information request was also deemed lawful by the court.

Munich-based technology law expert Nadia Hammouda of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, said that the ruling has potential implications for Airbnb in other German cities, as well as for 'hosts' in Munich. She said Airbnb may appeal against the judgment.

"If the judgement becomes legally binding, Airbnb must communicate the names and addresses of the hosts who then may face fines if they are found to have exceeded the limit on short term leases in Munich," Hammouda said.

"Other cities, such as Berlin, also have corresponding statutes. Since the legal position in these cities is slightly different, the ruling in Munich cannot necessarily be applied to those cities too. However, it can be expected that some of the cities may follow the City of Munich’s approach," she said.