Online rental company Airbnb is now fighting back against new legislation in San Francisco that would force the company to register its hosts with the city.
The law, which was finalized last Tuesday, would require Airbnb to verify that its hosts in San Francisco have registered with the city or else face daily $1,000 fines and misdemeanor charges. A primary argument by city supervisors is that additional regulations will be crucial in helping to resolve San Francisco’s housing crisis.
Meanwhile, opponents of the law, such as non-profit advocacy group CALinnovates, argue that such regulations are illegal and Airbnb has every right to sue San Francisco. The basis of this claim originates from the assertion that federal law protects platforms from being held responsible for users’ activities and that Airbnb is merely a platform staffed by volunteers instead of permanent employees.
Interestingly enough, Airbnb itself is taking a more moderate approach than some of the groups that support its position as it launched a campaign to ask the city to relax the laws. While the current laws require hosts to acquire business licenses, register in person, file quarterly reports describing the length of each stay, and a list of every item that a guest might use, Airbnb is asking San Francisco to relax the restrictions by removing business registration for hosts who use Qualified Website Companies (like Airbnb), create an online application process, create flexibility for hosts who do not rent out their space that often, and exempting hosts from the overly confusing business property tax inventory process.
The issue of government regulation on service-providing platforms such as Uber and Airbnb is becoming more important than ever as such companies are more deeply involved with already highly regulated industries. It would be interesting to see what happens next, and if the tech industry can score another victory as it did in the Apple-FBI dispute.