By Marisa Kendall
The Mercury News
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) The legal wranglings of Airbnb speak to the challenges cities face in regulating the home-sharing industry. In San Francisco, landlords who list homes or spare rooms on Airbnb and other such sites must register with the city, a process that includes making an in-person appointment, completing an application, paying a $50 fee and obtaining at least $500,000 in liability insurance.
As cities around the country attempt to regulate the growing home-sharing industry, Airbnb is going on the offensive with a barrage of lawsuits intended to kill local rules it doesn’t like.
Airbnb has sued California’s San Francisco, Santa Monica and Anaheim over ordinances that force the company to remove or refuse bookings that violate city laws, and it has threatened to sue the state of New York if a similar bill there is approved.
The company’s willingness to throw the first punch in these cases highlights the 8-year-old startup’s aggressive stance in warding off efforts to limit its explosive growth.
“It’s bold,” said Joshua Davis, associate dean for academic affairs at the University of San Francisco School of Law. “But if it looks like it’s really successful, others may follow. Uber certainly has the resources to get aggressive in this way.”
The major players in the on-demand industry are no stranger to courtroom battles and confrontations with regulators, but they most often find themselves playing defense. Ride-sharing giant Uber, which is fighting dozens of lawsuits in courts across the country, rarely has made the first move in those cases.
As cities struggle to regulate the booming home-sharing industry, some require landlords to register before renting their homes, while others prohibit certain short-term rentals altogether. Airbnb, valued at $30 billion and with more than 2 million rental listings worldwide, argues it can’t be required to enforce these rules and says the company is not liable for the postings landlords publish on its site.