The Real Deal New York

Airbnb in talks with city, state officials to settle lawsuit

Tech company sued over a law to enforce fines on illegal short-term rentals

November 01, 2016 10:00AM

From left: Eric Schneiderman and Airbnb founders Nathan Blecharczyk, Joe Gebbia and Brian Chesky

From left: Eric Schneiderman and Airbnb founders Nathan Blecharczyk, Joe Gebbia and Brian Chesky

Airbnb is in talks with New York City and the state to settle the lawsuit it filed after Gov. Andrew Cuomo passed a law targeting “hosts” with illegal listings with up to $7,500 in fines.

At the center of the settlement talks is whether or not Airbnb is liable for the illegal listings posted to their site, the Wall Street Journal reported. The settlement could protect Airbnb against the fines levied under the new law, but would leave hosts liable for the penalties.

Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, a co-sponsor of the bill, said Monday that, “the law fines the hosts and does not fine Airbnb.”

Airbnb sued the city and New York state just hours after Cuomo signed the bill into law in October  . The bill would enforce fines of up to $7,500 on people who list full apartments in multi-unit buildings for rent for fewer than 30 days.

In Airbnb’s complaint, the company noted that if the new law targeted the Airbnb website, it would violate the 1996 Communications Decency Act which protects internet publishers from third party content posted to their sites.

During an Assembly debate in June, Rosenthal and Assemblyman Al Graf discussed whether Airbnb’s role was closer to that of a real estate agent, or a platform for third-party content.

“Our focus has will continue to be operators of illegal hotels who put people in unsafe conditions and take affordable homes off the market,” said a spokesperson for de Blasio.

Both sides have until the end of the week to provide a status update, according to court documents. [WSJ]Chava Gourarie 

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