Airbnb settles lawsuit with San Francisco

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Airbnb Head of Global Policy Chris Lehane announced today that the company has settled its lawsuit with the city of San Francisco. Last year, Airbnb sued San Francisco over the city’s new rental legislation.

While the city’s laws were well-intentioned, Lehane said on a press call, it had a really onerous process that made it hard for hosts to comply. As part of the settlement, Airbnb will offer a streamlined registration process to hosts that makes it easy to register their short-term rental with the city and obtain a business license through Airbnb’s platform. That way, when a potential host signs up for Airbnb, they will have to go through the registration process with the city.

“You’re not able to be listed unless we’ve taken them through that process,” Lehane said. During the sign-up process, potential hosts will be notified that their information will be shared with the city.

For the other thousands of people hosting their homes on Airbnb’s platform, it should take about eight months from now to get the preexisting host community registered.

This is how it currently works in New Orleans, Chicago and Denver, Lehane said, so “we’ve gotten to the point where we know internally what we need to do to help facilitate that process.”

This streamlined registration with the city via Airbnb’s platform is part of Airbnb’s “desire to keep things simple,” Lehane said. That way, hosts have a clear understanding of what they’re supposed to be doing in order to abide by the city’s laws and home-sharing regulations.

The settlement also requires Airbnb to supply the city with a monthly list of all homes listed on Airbnb, along with information to enable San Francisco to confirm that the unit is registered. There are only 2,100 short-term rental hosts registered in San Francisco, but there are more than 8,000 listed on Airbnb.

In order for this to be implemented, San Francisco’s board of supervisors will have to endorse the agreement. If approved, Lehane said, Airbnb expects the system to be up and running by next year.

Regarding the likelihood of the board of supervisors approving this, Lehane said he’s learned a long time ago not to speak for elected officials. But given that registering hosts with the city is what San Francisco wants, one could imagine the board of supervisors would approve this.

“We have successfully defended San Francisco’s common-sense regulations on short-term rentals,” San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera said in a statement. “This agreement helps protect the city’s precious housing supply by obligating these companies to ensure that all their listings are legal and properly registered. This is a game changer. The settlement will also make it easier for residents who follow the rules to supplement their income by renting out a spare room or their home while on vacation.”

San Francisco is not the only city Airbnb has targeted in litigation. In Anaheim, Airbnb filed a lawsuit, which has since been dismissed because Anaheim “pulled back their law,” Lehane said. In Miami, a judge ruled last week in Airbnb’s favor and there’s a bit of a grey area in Santa Monica, Lehane said. Last year, Airbnb settled its lawsuit with New York City.