Tech & Telecom Law News

Airbnb Sues Miami Beach Over Short-Term Rental Law (1)

Jan. 4, 2019, 8:29 PMUpdated: Jan. 4, 2019, 10:18 PM

Airbnb Inc. is suing the city of Miami Beach over a law requiring short-term rental sites to monitor and remove unlawful listings.

The ordinance requires online platforms to take down user listings that don’t display city registration numbers, Airbnb alleged in a Jan. 4 complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida. Platforms also would have to go through listings containing the required numbers and verify that the city issued them, the company said.

The lawsuit came one day after a federal court blocked New York City from enforcing an ordinance requiring short-term rental sites to turn over renter data. Airbnb has fought state and city efforts around the country to regulate the short-term rental industry.

Airbnb is arguing that the Miami Beach ordinance violates Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a federal law that shields websites from liability for user-posted content. It said the law would cause a “significant disruption to Airbnb’s operations” and damage the goodwill its created with its customers.

Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber told Bloomberg Law in an email that Airbnb is suing so it could illegally rent out homes in the city. “Not exactly the type of behavior you would expect from good corporate citizens,” Gelber said.

Airbnb said the ordinance lets platforms bypass the content-policing rules if they use technology to block listings in areas that prohibit short-term rentals. But the city later said platforms had to follow the content-policing rules and deploy the technology, Airbnb said.

“In so doing, the City is acting unlawfully twice over: it misinterprets its own Ordinance to close off an express safe harbor, and it threatens Airbnb with costly fines under the illegal Content Policing provisions of the Ordinance,” the company said in its complaint.

Buckner + Miles is representing Airbnb.

The case is Airbnb Inc. v. City of Miami Beach, S.D. Fla., No. 1:19-cv-20045, complaint filed 1/4/19.

(Updated with additional reporting throughout)

To contact the reporter on this story: Alexis Kramer in Washington at akramer@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Keith Perine at kperine@bloomberglaw.com

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