AirBnb

Lawsuit Challenges Chicago's 'Literally Incomprehensible' Rules for Airbnb Hosts

Don't understand the rules? Too bad. You can still get fined up to $5,000 per day by the city.

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Ian Crysler/Newscom

A group of Chicago property owners are taking the city to court over rules for homesharing that are "literally incomprehensible."

Chicago's new regulations for short-term rentals, including those made over web services like Airbnb and VRBO, are scheduled to take effect next month. In the lawsuit filed on Nov. 4 in U.S. District Court, a nonprofit group called Keep Chicago Liveable and Benjamin Wolf, a Chicago resident, say the regulations constitute an "outright ban on the use of internet home sharing services" and "violate the constitutional rights of Chicagoans…to use their own property, to have privacy and to not be subject to arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement of the laws."

The lawsuit asks federal judges to enjoin the city from enforcing the Airbnb regulations passed in June.

Posting a room for rent on Airbnb is not an act of commerce that can be regulated by the city, the lawsuit claims, but is a social interaction.

The city did not return requests for comment.

Chicago's Aribnb rules do not contain the same blanket ban on short-term rentals that was passed recently in New York City (those regulations are also subject to a legal challenge), but that doesn't make them any better.

The final version of the ordinance is "dizzyingly complex," the Chicago Tribune reported in June when the city council voted 43-7 in favor of the new rules, with "various kinds of limits and ways to get around those limits for different types of residences in neighborhoods around the city." Some apartment buildings will be allowed to have only one unit listed on Airbnb at a time, while larger buildings have a cap of five short-term rentals at once.

All short-term rental will have to be registered with the city, for a fee of $60, and city inspectors will have the authority to show up at any time to check on the properties. Even something as simple as leaving food or drinks for guests to consumer could constitute a violation of the rules (if you do that, you're technically running a "bed and breakfast" in the city's eyes).

Airbnb hosts found to be in violation of the city's new regulations could face fines of up to $5,000 per violation, per day.

"Those penalties are buried inside 57 pages of dense and impenetrable legalese that the city knew, or should know, that ordinary citizens would never read or fully understand," the lawsuit claims.

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  1. Ignorance of the law blah blah blah blah

    1. Is it not the tactic of the confused bureaucracy? Throw out some vague rules to confuse many from participating at all.

      For those that take the risk, we can permit them and fine them into submission.

      The bureaucracy is growing to be as guilty of our demise as their gods in political circles.
      They can no longer claim igno0rance in their contribution to this mess that is this country.

  2. How is this not an act of commerce?

    That’s a silly argument.

    If you buy real estate in Chicago, you get what you deserve.

    1. That stood out to me as well. Maybe they are trying to distinguish between the act of advertising the place, and the act of actually renting it out? I’ve never used Airbnb before, I don’t know if you actually pay for the rental through the app or what.

  3. “Those penalties are buried inside 57 pages of dense and impenetrable legalese that the city knew, or should know, that ordinary citizens would never read or fully understand,” the lawsuit claims.

    Here’s an executive summary:

    DON’T!

    And here’s the summary of reasoning behind it:

    FYTW!

    1. The lawsuit claims it like it’s not SOP and to be expected.

      lol

  4. Thanks to AirBNB I was able to spend my honeymoon on a yacht in Italy. For 70 bucks a night.

    Fuck you Chicago.

  5. Get a load of the property owners who suddenly think they’re uniquely entitled to a working bureaucracy.

    1. Not to mention, those fools think they actually own their property.

    2. You own the property outright but it’s value is in context. By value, I mean the whole life savings of most residential property owners.

  6. Airbnb sucks donkey dick, in case you’re wondering. Stay at a Motel 6 if you’re low-budget travelling, they’ll keep a light on for you.

    You are just flat out breaking the social contract among suburban home owners when you rent your home to Airbnb subscribers. Get ready for pitch forks.

  7. RE: Lawsuit Challenges Chicago’s ‘Literally Incomprehensible’ Rules for Airbnb Hosts
    Don’t understand the rules? Too bad. You can still get fined up to $5,000 per day by the city.

    Well of course the law is written in legalese gibberish.
    How else are lawyers going to make money if they don’t write complex and confusing laws?
    Did you ever think of the plight of all the poor lawyers in our country?

  8. Not to be a buzzkill, but I don’t really know that the courts are the right way to fight regulatory complexity. Once you accept that a city has regulatory sway over housing (obviously not a given around here) the way you fight bad laws, assuming they’re not violating other explicit constitutional rights beyond the commerce clause, is by punting all the legislators responsible to the curb.

    That is to say, I don’t think the “renting isn’t commerce” logic flies in modern America, given the context of all the things that are allegedly commerce.

    1. Their tactic makes as much sense as trying to vote Dems out of office in Chicago.

    2. You’re reasoning assumes that Chicago is some sort of functional democracy.

  9. “Those penalties are buried inside 57 pages of dense and impenetrable legalese that the city knew, or should know, that ordinary citizens would never read or fully understand,” the lawsuit claims.

    Can the judge throw out the rules if it is proven that the aldermen did not read or fully understand what they were passing?

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