Hit & Run

Airbnb Sues To Defend Itself from City Regulations; Santa Monica Latest Target

The company insists forcing it to be liable for its hosts' misbehavior violates the Communications Decency Act, and forcing it to collect and deliver information on hosts to city violates Stored Communications Act.


Airbnb (along with another company in the same space, Homeaway in a separate suit) sued the city of Santa Monica last week in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.

The company argued that regulations aimed at its service of matching buyers and sellers of short term rentals via website and app violated its 1st, 4th, and 14th Amendment rights. (I reported on the first conviction under those laws against an AirBnb host in Santa Monica in August.)

Effie Y/Foter

This is the third such suit filed by Airbnb against California cities since June; they've also sued San Francisco and Anaheim. Anaheim faces a similar suit in state court from aggreived short-term rental housing owners.

Alison Schumer, a spokeswoman for Airbnb, told the Los Angeles Times that "Santa Monica's clumsily written law punishes hosts who depend on home sharing to make ends meet and travelers looking for low-cost accommodations near the beach. The city is unwilling to make necessary improvements to its draconian law, so while this isn't a step we wanted to take, it's the best way to protect our community of hosts and guests."

The challenged laws completely bar rentals of whole apartments for fewer than 30 days, strongly hobbling the business model. It also imposes rules forcing Airbnb hosts to post business licenses to operate on their online listings and pay a 14 percent hotel tax to the city, and holds the website liable for hosts violations.

Part of the suit argues that "The ordinance seeks to hold Airbnb liable for content created by third-party users, by punishing Airbnb for listings posted to its platform where those listings do not comply with city law. As such, the ordinance unquestionably treats online platforms such as Airbnb as the publisher or speaker of third-party content and is completely preempted by the [Communications Decency Act] CDA."

The San Francisco suit is based on a similar appeal to the CDA.

The suit also insists that the Stored Communication Act and the 4th Amendment are violated by Santa Monica, since the law forces "disclosure to the City of certain customer information without any legal process or pre-compliance review."

Courthouse News Service reports that:

Airbnb already has paid $20,000 in fines [to Santa Monica], KPCC radio reported in late July…In its 22-page lawsuit, Airbnb says it "has paid all of the citations it has received under protest," and says the city should enforce its laws against the hosts who violate them, not Airbnb.
The San Francisco-based company says the regulations force it to pay criminal fines without any evidence of intentional wrongdoing.
"The city has impermissibly created a strict-liability crime for publishing third-party advertisements for rentals that prove to be unlawful for one reason or another, even if the hosting platform has no knowledge of the violation," the complaint states.
It claims the city law and enforcement of it violate constitutional guarantees of due process, and that the city's demand for information about its customers constitutes unconstitutional search and seizure.
Both companies seek declaratory judgment that the ordinance is unconstitutional, and an injunction against its enforcement.

Consumerist reports on some more aspects of the Santa Monica regulations that harass AirBnb, which by law:

must not only collect and remit taxes to the city, they must regularly provide the city with a list of all their properties in Santa Monica, along with the name of the homeowner, the length of each stay, and the price paid for each rental.

Violation of the ordinance could result in penalties of up to $500 and six months in prison.

Since the city enacted the ordinance, Airbnb says it has received multiple notices from the city demanding the removal of "hundreds" of allegedly unlawful vacation rentals.

The Times reports that the Anaheim suit is going to be abandoned by Airbnb since "Anaheim officials reviewed the law and agreed not to enforce the provision that would punish hosting sites" for illegal behavior by hosts pending a complete ban on short-term rentals that will go into effect in April 2018.

NEXT: September 11: Remembering Lives and Liberties Lost 15 Years Ago

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  1. Violation of the ordinance could result in penalties of up to $500 and six months in prison.

    So who does the 6 months, Airbnb employees? How does the city decide who to cage for not turning over the info?

  2. I assume the city has articulated its goals with these regulations. How do they claim they are they protecting Santa Monica?

    1. Santa Monica has been the grand champion of rent control south of San Francisco for a long, long time. I bet it has to do with that.

      If you can't lease your property out but for a fraction of what you should be able to get on the market, there's an enormous incentive to rent it out short term by way of Airbnb.

      Short term Airbnb rentals wouldn't be subject to rent control regulations on long term leases.

      1. "Short term Airbnb rentals wouldn't be subject to rent control regulations on long term leases."

        Ah, yes. Many hundreds of more units of the rental market. But don't worry, SF has new rent control measures on the ballot this year; just a little more should make everything right.

        1. I can't imagine why anyone would own rental property in San Francisco.
          Everyone thinks of you landlords as evil and greedy.
          Renters essentially have squatter's rights, and the law and all bien-pensant citizens think you are always at fault if you even consider trying to evict them for destroying your property and failing to pay a penny of rent for over a year.

          1. "I can't imagine why anyone would own rental property in San Francisco."
            I can.
            Rent control has forced the price of rental units to the sky, and SF still does not have 'vacancy' control.
            When someone leaves, the new rent can be multiples of the former cost.
            Yes, the legal costs are high, but those are competed down by the number of suppliers. And the supply continues to diminish.
            BTW, do you work in SF?

            1. No, East Bay

            2. When someone leaves, the new rent can be multiples of the former cost.

              You have to jack the price up high enough so that the rent when you expect them to leave is still breaking even?

              Guaranteed spiraling rent?. proving the need for rent control.

  3. Greedy bastards.

  4. Today is my wife's birthday. She would have been 47.

    1. I am very sorry to hear that DenverJ.

    2. Keep the chin up, Bud.

    3. Happy birthday to good memories, I hope.

    4. Thanks all. I really miss her. The anniversary of her death was a week and a half ago, but her birthday is much harder on me.

      1. My sympathies, DenverJ.

      2. So very sorry, I can't even imagine.
        All the best.

    5. Sorry for your loss. Hope you find some peace today.

  5. Finally, a place to put late night links without pissing on the graves of terrorist victims.

    Lincoln's Bourbon Legacy, or did you know Abe was ?a barkeep?

    1. I did know this. One of the fables about him, aside from the 'ol 'He was born in a log cabin that he built with his own hands' is the one about his ability to drink whiskey from a barrel by holding it as if it were a tankard.

  6. Airbnb might have a legitimate shot at justice in a federal court, I guess. Better than they would in a state court.

    You know how the Constitution says whatever Hillary Clinton's next appointment says it says? Well, progressives have been appointing judges in California for a long time. There's no way you're gonna get a fair trial in a state court going up against something as infamous as the People's Republic of Santa Monica and their ability to centrally plan rent.

    Federal court is less that way, but then there's the ol' senatorial courtesy thing to consider.

    If Dianne Feinstein or Barbara Boxer didn't like the appointment, chances are it wasn't made. If I had to bet on the outcome, I'd bet against Airbnb on that one.

  7. I'm about to go on a multi-city airbnb rampage.

    My first time using.
    Looking forward to it.

    1. We have had nothing but positive experiences, in multiple countries.

      1. Nice to hear that.
        This will be a multi-country experience (Asia region).

        1. We've done AirBNB but have had the best results with their competitor VRBO, and had some truly amazing places around the USA and around the world. Haven't tried them for Asia, though.

          Last summer through VRBO we got an apartment in Rome that had a balcony overlooking the Coliseum and Forum, right across the damn street. It was like you could reach across and touch the damn thing, we were so close. No hotels anywhere nearby, only through an apartment share could you end up with something like that.

          I have to give my wife all the credit for finding that place. Just this week she got interviewed by Conde Nast Traveler about it (the owner asked her to comment). So much for us ever having that opportunity again -- but I doubt we'd ever decide to go to Rome for a week again anyway. So fricken hot!

          1. We used VRBO when we went to Champagne a few years back. We were in a small village in an old stone house with a nice kitchen and HUGE dining room table, right across the street from a bakery. 5 bedrooms. When we split the bill, it ended up being 20 euros per night per head. Likewise, my wife found it.

            I wouldn't do it any other way now.

    2. Not if you're not black you won't.

    1. "The phrases 'religious liberty' and 'religious freedom' will stand for nothing except hypocrisy so long as they remain code words for discrimination, intolerance, racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, Christian supremacy or any form of intolerance," Castro wrote.

      What is it with Castros and purges?

      1. "castros"= new slang term for those who follow certain Jewish practices?

      2. Hypocrisy?!?! Why, that's strictly for the government!

        This shit-head obviously thinks government IS society.

        1. True religious liberty and religious freedom should be about allowing Americans to freely practice their faith, and it is not, and should never be about preventing others from living their lives freely and equally.

          True religious liberty. Who doesn't want that? Are you against that? No, I didn't think so. Now let me tell you what true religious liberty is.

    2. "In January 2011, President Barack Obama appointed Martin R. Castro ..."

      If Clinton wins this kind of shit will get 1000x worse.

  8. BTW, light a candle or drink a big one tonight in celebration!

    ""(Chinese news agency) Hsinhua said the chairman of the Chinese Communist Party died about 16 hours before the announcement, at 12:10 a.m. Peking time," the story read. "He was 82 and had been in failing health for many months."

    One of the slimiest humans ever kicked the can on this date!

    1. Dunno who said it, but the claim is 'Any human death diminishes me.' I've considered that to be sanctimonious clap-trap for a LONG time.
      Mao is but one of quite a few people who have benefited mankind by dying, and many more remain.

      1. It's from John Donne's 17th Meditation,

        Donne was a Sky Daddy bleever, and Anglican cleric, and a poet. This meditation was written when he was very sick and contemplating the prospect of his own death. It's hard sledding even with the notes, but it refers to people dying due to "justice" (i.e., being hanged for their crimes, which is what should have happened to Mao), and even the deaths of such people, Donne suggests, should produce useful spiritual reflections and a sense of solidarity with the human race.

        The most famous passage is:

        "No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were. Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."

        The Meditation, of course, has reference to the afterlife and how the more solidarity we feel with others, thinking of their deaths, the more we will be spiritually ready for our own deaths.

        1. Specifically, "Justice" is only one of many causes of death listed.

        2. What's John ever Donne for the rest of us, eh

          1. It's a good thing puns aren't crimes, or you'd be put in the Donne John.

            1. You took a wholesome pun and rendered it perverse. Shame on you.

              1. What's perverse about a dungeon?

        3. I refer you to my earlier statement.

          1. And 'spiritually ready' is bleever-speek for 'pretty fucking dumb'.

            1. sevo towers above intellectual midgets like Augustine, Isidore of Seville, Aquinas, Suarez, Bartolom? de las Casas, Bellarmine, Newman, and Catherine of Siena, not to mention Protestant morons like Donne, Barth, Francis Schaeffer, etc.

              1. "sevo towers above intellectual midgets like Augustine, Isidore of Seville, Aquinas, Suarez, Bartolom? de las Casas, Bellarmine, Newman, and Catherine of Siena, not to mention Protestant morons like Donne, Barth, Francis Schaeffer, etc."

                All eddies's got is appeal to mystics. Why am I not surprised?

            2. One of your best lines ever Sevo 🙂

    1. Didn't see any reference; is the AG up for election against a 'hard on crime' opponent?

      1. Could be. I'm of the opinion that this is sad little grasp at "legitimacy", after the show revealed just how corrupt, craven, and twisted* they really are.

        *Or, any day ending in "y".

  9. I would submit that Santa Monica's Petty regulations are the least of Air B&B problems. They've hired Eric Holder, former Attorney General to try to avoid Department of Justice probes into their racist processes.

  10. The first 400/200 game ever? C'mon.

  11. OT: http://www.foxnews.com/us/2016.....finds.html

    "These victims had no chance to protect themselves as a result of the callous perpetration of violence victim disarmament policy of the county.

    1. GayJay is taking votes from Hillary, not Trump, and it's been that way for months. It's only about .3% now, since Hillary has lost almost all of her lead now, but Johnson just may hand the win to Trump.

    2. SIV|9.10.16 @ 12:19AM|#
      "Ready For Hillary?"

      SIV is licking Trump ass, since SIV is a fucking ignoramus!

    3. ""We've got to bring people together. That's how you solve problems, and that's what I'll do as president," she said in the ad."

      You know who else...

      1. The villain of 'The Human Centipede'?

  12. Is this late nite links? And, what about Trump? What did Trump say today? No worries about the shitheads who have been dismantling the US Constitution for the last 40 years or so, they get a free pass. What did Trump say today? Was it mean? Did someone gets a sad? Are the safe spaces fully booked?

    1. There. Is. No. Trump.

      1. Whoa. Did you see that? ::touches Hillary's thighs and watches them jiggle in an unreal manner::

  13. This is the protest movement Jill Stein got involved in

    CANNON BALL, N.D. ? The simmering showdown here between the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the company building the Dakota Access crude-oil pipeline began as a legal battle.

    It has turned into a movement....

    "At issue for the tribes is the 1,172-mile Dakota Access Pipeline, or DAPL, which runs through North and South Dakota, Iowa and Illinois and has a capacity to transport more than 500,000 barrels of oil a day....

    "The tribe says it also is fighting the pipeline's path because, even though it does not cross the reservation, it traverses sacred territory taken away from the tribe in a series of treaties that have been forced upon it over the past 150 years....

    "Large labor unions, including the Laborers' International Union of North America, have supported the pipeline and in a statement characterized protesters as "extremists."...

    "...The U.N. Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues has called on the United States to provide the tribe a "fair, independent, impartial [etc.]"

    1. (there should be quote marks on the first two paragraphs)

    2. "The $3.8 billion pipeline now under construction was approved by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to cross under the Missouri River a mile north of the reservation.

      "That river is the source of water for the reservation's 8,000 residents. Any leak, tribal leaders argue, would cause immediate and irreparable harm. And tribal leaders point to what they consider a double standard, saying that the pipeline was originally going to cross the Missouri north of Bismarck, the state capital, but was rerouted because of powerful opposition that did not want a threat to the water supply there."

      1. I am not sure I follow that. Are they dipping water out of the river with buckets? Have they considered drilling some wells? I am going to guess that no solution is good enough. They are looking for a payday, that's all.

        My father was a metallurgical engineer who worked in mining. He has had to deal with several Indian tribes going back 60 years. According to him they are impossible to deal with.

        1. It's past time to either quit treating these racist pseudo governments as anything more than a private social club or the 14th Amendment applies to their "governments" too.

          1. Yep. I'm a bit jealous I'm not a super citizen like the tribal members.

  14. "the regulations force it to pay criminal fines without any evidence of intentional wrongdoing."

    that defense sounds familiar.

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