Airbnb Wins Block of San Francisco Short-Term Rental Law

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By Alexis Kramer

Nov. 21 — A federal district court has temporarily blocked enforcement of a San Francisco ordinance that would impose fines on home-sharing platforms such as Airbnb Inc. for collecting booking fees from hosts who aren’t registered with the city ( Airbnb Inc. v. City and County of San Francisco , N.D. Cal., No. 3:16-cv-03615, temporary restraining order granted 11/18/16 ).

Airbnb argued that it didn’t have a viable means of complying with the ordinance, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California said Nov. 18. Airbnb had said that the city lacked a mechanism that would enable the company to verify registration efficiently.

The order is a small victory for the home-sharing platform, which has been fighting short-term rental regulations across the country.

The court blocked enforcement through Dec. 1 while further proceedings take place. The court said it may extend the order or grant other relief after that.

The court had previously denied Airbnb’s bid to block the ordinance on the grounds that Section 230 of the federal Communications Decency Act, which shields online publishers from liability for third-party content, likely doesn’t protect the platform against the liability that the ordinance imposes. The court had deferred a ruling on whether the ordinance could be fairly enforced.

In its Nov. 18 order, the court said the city had indicated that it will no longer voluntarily stay enforcement of the ordinance. “This apparent retrenchment concerns the court because it threatens the imposition of criminal penalties on plaintiffs, and other hosting platforms, in the face of serious questions about the fair enforcement of the ordinance,” the court said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Alexis Kramer in Washington at aKramer@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Keith Perine at kperine@bna.com

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