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Airbnb sues San Francisco over new short-term rental rules

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Airbnb might be OK with Chicago’s rules regarding short-term rentals, but the company is not at all thrilled with San Francisco’s. That is why Airbnb decided to sue the latter over a recent amendment made to the city’s rental law, the San Francisco Examiner reports.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to have Airbnb and other short-term rental services post registration numbers on advertised listings or email the numbers and host names to the city’s Office of Short-Term Rentals. If Airbnb and others fail to adhere to the new law, which goes in effect next month, they will be fined $1,000 each day until they take down any unregistered listings.

Unsurprisingly, Airbnb is not happy with the change and filed a lawsuit against San Francisco through the U.S. District Court for Northern California. According to the lawsuit, the new rental law violates the Communications Decency Act by placing “content-based restrictions on speech by imposing civil and criminal penalties on Airbnb as a result of the publication of this content.” Other federal laws San Francisco’s rental law allegedly violates include the Stored Communications Act and the First Amendment.

Furthermore, Airbnb alleges the city’s new rental law does not do enough to address what the company believes to be a “broken registration process.”

“The new law doubles down on a broken system by threatening websites that don’t remove home sharers who can’t navigate a confusing, inefficient, and bureaucratic process that often takes months to complete,” reads Airbnb’s blog post announcing the lawsuit.

Finally, Airbnb alleges the rental law negatively impacts how its business operates. “Given the substantial criminal and civil penalties for non-compliance, and the burdensome verification process, hosting platforms like Airbnb likely would over-remove or not publish lawful and registered listings,” reads the lawsuit. Over 75 percent of Airbnb hosts in San Francisco are not registered.

In a statement sent to Cnet, press secretary for the City Attorney’s Office Matt Dorsey said the new rental law does not punish Airbnb, as the company says it does.

“Nothing in San Francisco’s pending ordinance punishes hosting platforms for their users’ content,” said Dorsey. “In fact, it’s not regulating user content at all — it’s regulating the business activity of the hosting platform itself.”

Airbnb is not happy with what is going on in New York, either, as the State Senate passed a bill that would forbid the service from advertising unoccupied apartments for short-term rentals. Airbnb is having an easier time in Chicago, though, as the city gave the asterisked green light for the service to advertise short-term rentals.

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