Airbnb has finally found a way to play nice with San Francisco, ending a tense period where the $US31 billion startup sued its own hometown over its short-term rental regulations.
Last June, the home-sharing site sued San Francisco after the city passed a new ordinance that would fine platforms like Airbnb for hosting rental properties on its site that were not registered with the city.
Airbnb first argued that it would be violating its hosts’ first-amendment rights to free speech if it was forced to patrol what people write in their listings, but a judge dismissed that argument in November. However, the judge still said that the ordinance was not enforceable because of the complexity of San Francisco’s short-term rental registration process.
Now, Airbnb and the city have reached an agreement that would require the nearly 8,000 hosts in San Francisco to be registered in order to host a listing. Currently, only 2,100 had complied with the law to register at this point.
As part of the agreement, Airbnb — and its competitor HomeAway — have both agreed that:
- All hosts in San Francisco will have to input their registration number before posting a listing. For existing hosts, there will be a 240-day window where Airbnb will help them register or face removal from the platform.
- Airbnb and HomeAway will help all new hosts register with the city via a “pass-through” registration system. Now, when someone wants to sign up to host on Airbnb in San Francisco, they will have the option to send their information directly to the city just by signing up on Airbnb. Previously, Airbnb hosts were responsible for going to the short term rental office in person and filling out the paperwork.
- Airbnb and HomeAway will give the city a list every month with its hosts’ information so they can verify that they are registered and have a business licence. In San Francisco, the information given to the city by Airbnb will be address, name, and zip code.
- Airbnb and HomeAway will deactivate the listings of anyone found to be in violation.
The settlement is still pending approval from the Board of Supervisors, after which Airbnb will officially drop its lawsuit. The agreement, though, resolves the legal limbo the company has existed in for nearly the last year and helps clear the path to a future public offering.
“We’re incredibly proud to be a San Francisco company,” said Airbnb’s policy chief, Chris Lehane, in a conference call with reporters. “This company could not have been founded in any other city. The energy and the vision and the creativity that exists in San Francisco helped create the big idea that became Airbnb.”