Bavarian court backs Airbnb in data dispute

Out-Law News | 03 Sep 2019 | 12:30 pm | 1 min. read

Airbnb cannot be forced to disclose the names and addresses of 'hosts' operating in Munich unless there is reasonable suspicion that those individuals are acting in breach of local housing laws, a court in Bavaria has said.

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 that data disclosure order before the administrative court in Munich, but the court ruled against the company late last year. Airbnb subsequently raised an appeal before Bavaria's supreme administrative court, the Bayerischer Verwaltungsgerichtshof.

In a statement issued on 29 August, the Bayerischer Verwaltungsgerichtshof confirmed that it would hear Airbnb's appeal against the 2018 ruling. However, it also took the unusual step of recommending that the City of Munich withdraw its data disclosure order against the company.

Munich-based technology law expert Igor Barabash of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law, said: "According to the Bayerischer Verwaltungsgerichtshof, there is no basis, either within Germany's Constitution or federal or state laws, for the City of Munich to require Airbnb to adhere to a general and area-wide data collection request. It said the authority must restrict itself to requesting information 'in individual cases' where there is concrete initial suspicion of the misappropriation of property. This qualification on the rights to access data, the court said, is in line with the law on the misappropriation of property and Germany's Telemedia Act."