Lääne-Harju Municipality threatens home accommodation providers with injunction

Hostel (illustrative).
Hostel (illustrative). Source: Argo Nurs

The Lääne-Harju Municipality has sent letters to people offering short-term rental services on residential land, such as renting out a house or apartment using Airbnb, where it threatens control action. The Ministry of Economic Affairs finds that home accommodation providers have done nothing wrong and that existing legislation is sufficient.

Several short-term rental or home accommodation service providers recently received a letter from the Lääne-Harju Municipality Government, telling them they cannot pursue business activity on residential land. Economic activity would be permissible only on business land and if the building was registered as a hostel. The municipality warned that injunctions might follow failure to observe these rules.

"We have only sent a few such letter and have not really undertaken the matter properly yet. The letters follow complaints from owners of neighboring properties. The letters are a little sharp and sudden, I agree," Erki Ruben, deputy municipality mayor for Lääne-Harju, said.

"It is a bit of a gray area, and it would be very good if we could get a court precedent. That would make it clear whether it is permissible or not," Ruben said.

"Airbnb short-term renting is not regulated separately. Neighbors who are bothered by strangers using the property next door have the right to seek protection of their interests. /.../ Residential land is meant for living on, not business or professional activity," said Jelizaveta Henno, sworn lawyer at law firm Njord.

But the Ministry of Economic Affairs disagrees. "Renting out one's home in the short or long term constitutes purposeful use. That is what the Construction Code provides. While the Tourism Act regulates rental activities for tourism purposes, Airbnb is not separately regulated therein. /.../ If residential land or premises are used for intended purposes, the local government has no grounds for an injunction," Sandra Särav, deputy secretary general of the ministry, said.

Erki Ruben believes the municipality will not have to resort to injunctions. "I believe we are able to sit down with both sides and find a solution. Coercion is the last resort," the deputy municipality mayor said.


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Editor: Merili Nael, Marcus Turovski

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