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Airbnb Sues Anaheim Over New Short-Term Rental Rules

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It's only been a few weeks since the city of Anaheim decided to ban short-term rentals and Airbnb is already suing. The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court of Santa Ana on Thursday, according to the L.A. Times. The suit alleges that the new laws put the onus on Airbnb and similar sites when it comes to ensuring that listed properties meet the city's regulations by asking the sites to remove any listings that do not have a permit or are in violation of the new regulations in some other way. The sites have 10 days to do so, or may be fined $500 to $2,000, depending on how many offenses they've racked up.

The city began requiring permits in 2014, which cost $250 annually. However, the city stopped issuing permits in 2015 after the number of permits reached 400. There are now 363 permitted short-term rentals in the city and according to the new laws, they have 18 months to shut down starting August 11. There are also other new rules which include how many people can stay in one rental at a time, as well as noise and parking restrictions. Those found operating short-term rentals without a permit may have their water and power shut off.

Airbnb contends that it should be the property owners, not the listing sites, who are responsible for following these rules. The suit also alleges that the regulation is in violation of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, which states "no provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider." So, basically Airbnb is saying that they shouldn't be held responsible if an Anaheim resident decides to use their platform to violate city laws.

The only way for Airbnb to be safe, the suit claims, is to simply stop listing all Anaheim rentals. Airbnb also claims the regulations are in violation of the First Amendment, saying "it is a content-based restriction on speech, in the form of rental listings," according to the OC Register.

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"We want to keep working with governments to craft rules that work, but the city of Anaheim quickly banned this economic lifeline and created regulations that violate federal law,” Alison Schumer, a spokesperson for Airbnb, said.

Airbnb is also suing San Francisco for similar reasons.

Anaheim residents opposed to short-term rentals claimed that operators were turning residences into hotels, driving up the price of apartments that could have otherwise gone to people who actually live and work in Anaheim. Those in favor say that operators were fixing up problem properties, or simply making money needed to support themselves. A Fullerton couple told the OC Register that they bought two condos four years ago, charging people $200 a night to stay. They used this money so that the mother of the family could quit her job and stay home with her children.