Airbnb argues July 1 Amsterdam vacation rental ban is unfair, illegal

Sunny day in Amsterdam

Contention between home rental giant Airbnb and the city of Amsterdam has stepped up again this week after the municipality announced on Thursday its intention to move forward with its ban on all vacation rentals in three neighborhoods in the city center. Airbnb told NL Times that it wants to work with the city to find a better solution, and also told news agency Reuters the city was acting outside the bounds of the law.

The new ban, which comes into force on July 1, will apply to the three neighborhoods of Burgwallen-Oude Zijde, Burgwallen-Nieuwe Zijde and the Grachtengordel-Zuid, all of which are in the heart of the city's old town. "The municipality commissioned a study to see to what extent the liveability of neighborhoods in the opinion of the residents was negatively affected by the tourist rental of apartments. These three neighborhoods turned out to have the worst scores," city council spokesperson Anouk Panman told NL Times.

The ban is set only to affect vacation rentals, apartments rented out entirely to tourists, as opposed to actual bed and breakfasts, which are licensed differently and typically have a different hosting and catering arrangements. According to the municipality, vacation rentals will still be permitted in all other Amsterdam neighborhoods for a period of up to 30 days a year and in groups of no more than four people. In addition, owners will need to provide a special permit in order to list their place as a vacation rental, the city said in a press release.

However, the city's decision has been strongly contested by Airbnb, who claim their business will be impacted by the ban. According to Airbnb Netherlands, the company has been "deeply concerned the proposals are illegal and violate the basic rights of local residents", according to Reuters. In addition, the rental giant claims that the municipality's decision is illegal, pointing to European Convention on Human Rights and the EU Services Directive laws, as well as national rules that they assert solely entitle Amsterdam to designate areas for a licensing scheme.

In spite of their opposition, however, Airbnb has expressed willingness to work with the municipality in order to come to a favorable agreement. "We are always in a constructive process with Amsterdam," a spokesperson for Airbnb told NL Times on Saturday, adding that the company has always been willing to work with the municipality to reduce nuisance originating from its vacation rentals.

However, according to the spokesperson, an outright ban remains a widely unpopular move, adding that the Amsterdam city council's decision in its favor appears to be out of touch with reality. "[M]any of the reactions against the ban included associations with thousands of individual members so the 75% in favor of the ban seems a completely unweighted number," he said.

The spokesperson also pointed out that the number of complaints concerning vacation rentals have been decreasing over the past three years, with 1,772 such complaints being recorded in 2017 versus 1,082 in 2019.