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Saturday, December 03, 2016

Airbnb, New York City settle rental law lawsuit

Fri Dec 2, 2016 | 10:29 PM EST A 3D printed people's models are seen in front of a displayed Airbnb logo in this illustration taken, June 8, 2016. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration A 3D printed people's models are seen in front of a displayed Airbnb logo in this illustration taken, June 8, 2016. Reuters/Dado Ruvic/Illustration Airbnb, New York City settle rental law lawsuit By Nate Raymond | NEW YORK Airbnb Inc and New York City said on Friday they had resolved a lawsuit brought by the company challenging a law it argued could expose it to significant penalties for advertising short-term apartment rentals. Airbnb filed the suit in October after New York state enacted a law imposing fines of up to $7,500 on hosts who advertise illegal short-term rentals on platforms like Airbnb. Airbnb had contended that the law's ambiguous wording could allow New York authorities to apply it to online platforms like itself that host third-party listings, creating the risk of significant civil penalties and criminal liability. Under the terms of the settlement, New York City agreed that the law would not be enforced against the company and was instead aimed at individual violators, a spokeswoman for Mayor Bill de Blasio said. "The city will enforce this and other existing laws against bad actors, and appreciates the additional enforcement powers this new tool provides to protect New Yorkers and visitors from unsafe conditions," said Melissa Grace, a mayoral spokeswoman. San Francisco-based Airbnb in a statement said it saw this agreement as a step forward for its hosts, with both sides agreeing to work cooperatively on ways to address New York City's housing shortage. "We look forward to using this as a basis to finding an approach that protects responsible New Yorkers while cracking down on illegal hotels that remove permanent housing off the market or create unsafe spaces," Airbnb said. The deal follows an earlier settlement with the New York state attorney general, who agreed his office would refrain from taking any action to enforce the law, citing an express provision stating enforcement would be carried out by the city. The lawsuit came amid ongoing clashes between the online lodging service and public officials seeking to minimize the impact of short-term rentals on neighborhoods and urban housing markets. Airbnb argues it cannot legally be held responsible for how landlords use its platform. If it is required to enforce local laws on short-term rentals, that could drastically reduce listings in some of its biggest markets. The case is Airbnb Inc v. Schneiderman, et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 16-08239. (Reporting by Nate Raymond; Editing by Nick Macfie) ===================== Tue Mar 7, 2017 | 4:05 PM EST Airbnb CEO offers property hosts bigger role in company FILE PHOTO - A man walks past a logo of Airbnb after a news conference in Tokyo, Japan, November 26, 2015. Reuters/Yuya Shino/File Photo Airbnb CEO offers property hosts bigger role in... By Heather Somerville | SAN FRANCISCO Airbnb, the leading online marketplace for short-term lodging, on Tuesday invited some of the owners of properties listed on its service, known as hosts, to attend executive board meetings and offered them more direct contact with its chief executive, in an attempt to give the people vital to the company's success a greater say in how it is run. Airbnb depends on the loyalty and advocacy of its hosts - people who rent out their homes and apartments through the company's website - in its battles with regulators in cities across the globe. Unlike the guests that use Airbnb, hosts are usually voters and taxpayers in their communities, and have more sway with elected officials. Host advocacy was pivotal to the defeat of Proposition F in San Francisco, a measure on the ballot in 2015 to limit short-term rentals. In an event at Airbnb's San Francisco headquarters on Tuesday, attended by dozens of Airbnb hosts from across the world, CEO Brian Chesky announced that he will have more direct communication with hosts through periodic emails and quarterly Facebook Live events. He added that Airbnb will create an advisory board made up of hosts, and will invite certain hosts to one board meeting a year. Airbnb will also expand the number of what it calls 'host clubs' to 1,000 from 114 by the end of 2018, Chesky said. The hosts clubs were launched in 2015 as an effort to galvanize hosts to engage with local officials and head off regulatory crackdowns. Chesky also said he would take on the additional title of head of community. Airbnb has faced opposition from local governments and the established hospitality industry in many places, just as ride-hailing service Uber Technologies Inc [UBER.UL] has faced opposition from local regulators and existing taxi services. Uber has benefited from both passengers and drivers lobbying local elected officials to legalize the service, but Airbnb has the problem that guests who stay in Airbnb homes are usually from another city or country. That means Airbnb has to rely on its hosts, who make up about 3 million of the total 150 million Airbnb users globally, to appeal to local officials for regulations friendly to Airbnb. "Our community (of hosts) is able to be a counterweight to the historic power of the hotel industry," said Chris Lehane, Airbnb's head of global policy. "They are real people who do vote." More than 5,700 Airbnb hosts have attended a political event and about 10,700 hosts have contacted an elected official regarding Airbnb, the company said Tuesday. Airbnb operates in about 65,000 cities across 191 countries. (Reporting by Heather Somerville; Editing by Bill Rigby)

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