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Lawsuit: Airbnb Isn’t Responsible for Enforcing San Francisco Laws
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Photo courtesy of TripAdvisor.

Summary: In a new lawsuit, Airbnb claims they are not responsible for enforcing San Francisco’s rental law. 

Airbnb is at war with its hometown, San Francisco. On Monday, the home-share giant sued the city for attempting to make it enforce a housing law, which Airbnb claims is illegal. Airbnb, which already has made efforts to help the city regular the short-term rental market, claimed that San Francisco’s additional ask was not their responsibility.


In the city, people are allowed to rent out their apartments with restrictions, and they must also register themselves. Because enforcement has been difficult, San Francisco updated the regulation by adding that websites such as Airbnb can be punished for non-compliant users. The City proposed a $1,000 per day fine for each unregistered listing and that Airbnb employees could face jail time. While the terms seem harsh, San Francisco is responding to a housing crisis–rent is already high there and the rental supply does not meet demand. Airbnb users exacerbate the problem by using up the already limited apartment supply.

However, Airbnb, like numerous other websites, has pushed all of its liability onto its users. After all, is Craigslist responsible for the junk sold on there? Is Google responsible for people reading search result websites with false information? So far, the answer is “no” because of section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which provides legal protections to internet companies.

Eric Goldman, a professor at Santa Clara University School of Law, explained to the Chicago Tribune the section’s reach.

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“Imagine if a state or city required eBay to verify that its sellers had the appropriate local business license,” Goldman said. “That would be an indirect, but very clear, limitation on eBay’s abilities to accept listings, and I think that’s what Section 230 precludes.”

In the past, courts tended to side with the websites so it looks like Airbnb has a good chance of winning their San Fran lawsuit. However, that doesn’t mean the site may not be affected when its client-base will bear the brunt of all the local regulations. For instance, Airbnb said that the city has already fined its hosts a total of $700,000. These fines are meant to deter Airbnb users.

What do you think about this lawsuit? Let us know in the comments below.

Source: Chicago Tribune


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