Airbnb sues New York City

Another city, another Airbnb lawsuit.

Airbnb sued the city of New York, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Mayor Bill de Blasio today over legislation that would make it illegal to advertise accommodations that can’t legally be rented out for less than 30 days. The bill was passed in June and signed into law by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo earlier today.

New York housing law restricts short-term rentals for certain housing, and housing advocates in the city argue that many of the units listed on Airbnb are illegal. Although these hosts can already face steep fines, the new law would make it illegal for Airbnb to allow listings for these units on their platform.

Airbnb claims the law is a violation of the Communications Decency Act, which protects internet companies from liability for content posted by their users. In the suit, Airbnb says that application of the law to Airbnb “would hold Airbnb liable for the content of rental listings created and posted by third-parties on Airbnb’s platform. As such, the Act unquestionably treats platforms such as Airbnb as the publisher or speaker of third-party content and is completely preempted by the CDA.”

In addition to violating the CDA, Airbnb also argues that the law violates the First Amendment rights of the company and its users. Airbnb has similar lawsuits against the cities of San Francisco, Anaheim and Santa Monica.

The lawsuit is an about-face for the company, which just two days ago offered to work with the city of New York to address concerns about Airbnb’s impact on affordable housing. Airbnb proposed several new rules for hosts, including a “three strikes” rule that would boot hosts from the platform if they listed illegal units three times. Assembly member Linda Rosenthal, who sponsored the legislation, called Airbnb’s olive branch “preposterous” and a “PR stunt.”

“In typical fashion, Albany back-room dealing rewarded a special interest — the price-gouging hotel industry — and ignored the voices of tens of thousands of New Yorkers. A majority of New Yorkers have embraced home sharing, and we will continue to fight for a smart policy solution that works for the people, not the powerful,” Airbnb’s head of New York public policy Josh Meltzer said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the ShareBetter Coalition praised Cuomo for signing the legislation. “Airbnb has broken the law for years, making billions off their exploitation of the housing market while tenants have paid the price with higher rents and less affordable housing. This bill will give law enforcement the tools they need to crack down on illegal short-term rentals that deprive our neighborhoods of precious units of affordable housing and destabilize our communities,” the Coalition said in a statement.