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Airbnb ordered to repay apartment owner over sublets

[PARIS] Airbnb was ordered by a French court to compensate the owner of a Paris apartment after the tenant sublet the flat behind her back.

Airbnb and the tenant were jointly ordered to pay nearly 52,000 euros (S$81,724) to make up for the rent received for the subletting and an extra 5,000 euros in legal fees, according to a June 5 ruling from a Paris court. Airbnb was also told to pay back the 1,558 euros in commissions it received.

The Paris judge said Airbnb can be considered a publisher given its active role in linking hosts and travellers, and has similar responsibilities.

If a host uses Airbnb to act illegally, the platform is at fault because it has a responsibility to inspect the advertisements, the court said. "Airbnb contributed to the owner's harm through its faulty behaviour."

The tenant sublet the Paris flat for 534 days in 2016 and 2017 without the permission of the owner. Le Figaro newspaper reported on the case earlier.

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Airbnb said it would appeal, arguing the case concerns a private dispute between a landlord and tenant.

"The court's decision goes against both French" and European Union legal principles, Airbnb said.

Jonathan Bellaiche, a lawyer for the apartment owner, expects the court ruling will have a broad impact.

"This decision brings financial responsibilities to bear on Airbnb, which will be answerable for abuses committed on its platform," the lawyer said. "Legal risk has become an economic risk."

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