Airbnb sues San Francisco, escalating fight over city’s new home-sharing rules

Airbnb is not about to take San Francisco’s strict new home-sharing rules lying down.

Escalating an ongoing fight over how the platform should be regulated, Airbnb on Monday sued its hometown in federal court. At issue is a measure the San Francisco Board of Supervisors approved earlier this month that updates existing home-sharing law. The current law requires landlords who list their properties on Airbnb to register with the city — the new rules would force Airbnb to remove all landlords who don’t register, or face penalties of up to $1,000 per day and six months in jail for each unregistered listing.

“The Board of Supervisors recently passed a hastily-crafted proposal requiring Airbnb to remove all unregistered hosts,” Airbnb wrote in a blog post the day the suit was filed. “This legislation ignores the reality that the system is not working and this new approach will harm thousands of everyday San Francisco residents who depend on Airbnb. It also violates federal law.”

Airbnb worked with San Francisco to craft its first law both permitting and regulating home-sharing, which went into effect last year. But as Airbnb and other platforms face push-back over accusations that they are exacerbating the city’s affordable housing crisis, and the hotel industry cries foul over this new form of competition — few Airbnb hosts are bothering to register. Close to 80 percent of landlords weren’t in compliance with the city’s short-term rental law, according to a recent report. So this month San Francisco decided to give that law some teeth.

Now Airbnb is asking a federal court in San Francisco to declare the new rules illegal and to block the city from enforcing them.

Airbnb’s lawsuit claims the rules violate the federal Communications Decency Act, which forbids holding websites accountable for content published by their users. The suit also says that by requiring Airbnb to hand over user information without due legal process, the rules also violate the Stored Communications Act, which protects the privacy of internet users. And the rules violate Airbnb’s First Amendment rights, according to the company, by restricting the advertising of rental listings — which is a form of speech.

“There are better ways to regulate home sharing and address the city’s concerns, ways that don’t violate important federal laws,” Airbnb wrote in its blog post. “We are ready and willing to work with city government to find common ground on a legal, sensible approach to regulation that protects housing and simplifies the process, and we are hopeful this dialogue can continue as quickly as possible.”

Photo: Screen shot of the Airbnb website. (Airbnb)


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  • proudbayman

    Airbnb, let’s throw a party in your home!