Airbnb Crackdown Reined In After Lawsuit

Airbnb Crackdown Reined In After Lawsuit

By Heather Cherone | February 13, 2017 2:58pm | Updated on February 13, 2017 4:08pm

The ordinance faces two separate legal challenges — one in state court filed by the Chicago-based Liberty Justice Center and another filed in federal court by Keep Chicago Livable, group made up of homeowners who oppose the new rules.

Originally, the ordinance would have required Airbnb hosts to turn over their guests’ names and addresses to any city official who demanded the information. However, the city would need a court order to get that information under the revised measure set to be considered Tuesday by City Council Committee on License and Consumer Protection.

Valerie Landis, a board member and one of the founders of Keep Chicago Livable, said that was a step in the right direction, but said there was a “long way to go” to resolve her group’s concerns that the ordinance was designed to illegally protect hotels from competition from homeowners.

Shorge Sato, an attorney for Keep Chicago Livable, said the ordinance still contains unconstitutional provisions.

“This lawsuit is far from over,” Sato said.

Jeffrey Schwab, an attorney with the Liberty Justice Center, said the provision requiring hosts to turn over information about their guests was clearly unconstitutional.

“Hopefully, the city will fix it on its own,” Schwab said, declining to say whether the changes would resolve the lawsuit against the city filed in state court.

Airbnb spokesman Benjamin Breit said the company is committed “to serving as a good partner to the City of Chicago, and we will be ready to move forward with our obligations under the ordinance once it goes fully into effect.”

Bill McCaffrey, a spokesman for the city’s Law Department, said city officials “will work collaboratively with the companies to ensure ordinance compliance.”

A spokesman for Mayor Rahm Emanuel — who traveled to Washington, D.C., Monday — did not respond to a request for comment.

In a speech at Stanford University Feb. 6, Emanuel said he had met with Airbnb representatives while in California.

Without elaborating, Emanuel hinted at big changes coming for how Chicago regulates the home-sharing service.

“We’ve discussed today something new which no other city is gonna do, which we’re gonna try,” Emanuel said. “I can’t say it now because I’ve got to work something out. But I’m confident I will.”

Breit said the new initiative the mayor was referring to did not have anything to do with Chicago’s regulations for short-term housing. He declined to say what the mayor was “hinting at.”