Airbnb Ducks Apartment Managers’ Beef Over Rentals

LOS ANGELES (CN) – A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit against Airbnb, in which an apartment management company accused the home-share giant of encouraging renters to violate lease agreements and creating an unsafe environment for other tenants.

The class action filed this past February said Airbnb’s short-term rental model violated four apartment management companies’ lease agreements with its tenants. The companies said in the initial complaint they incurred “costs and damages as a result of their need to increase security patrols and sweeps to prevent unauthorized access” to its properties due to Airbnb rentals.

The companies sought monetary damages and in October asked for a court order to stop Airbnb from using several Southern California properties they manage.

U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee dismissed the case in a 13-page ruling issued Dec. 29. In it, Gee said “Airbnb hosts – not Airbnb – are responsible for providing the actual listing information. Airbnb ‘merely provide[s] a framework that could be utilized for proper or improper purposes.’”

A year ago, apartment manager Aimco reached out to the San Francisco-based Airbnb to say several of its listings violated standard leasing agreements. Airbnb said they would not review those agreements or get involved in disputes between its hosts and the property owners.

Airbnb moved to dismiss the case under the Communications Decency Act, claiming the federal law bars it from being held liable for the actions of its users.

Aimco challenged this by arguing Airbnb is an information content provider. The company said it did not seek to treat Airbnb as a publisher or speaker under the law, but “to hold Airbnb liable for its own conduct.”

Gee disagreed, saying while Airbnb provides listings for rentals it does not create them and is not a content provider.

“Aimco does not explain how Airbnb’s failure to cease engaging in rental transactions with tenants whom Airbnb learns are violating their lease agreements, or Airbnb’s complaints to Aimco when Airbnb guests are denied access to Aimco’s properties, transforms Airbnb into an information content provider. Aimco would be hard-pressed to do so,” Gee wrote.

An Airbnb representative said the company is pleased with the court’s decision that helps “tenant hosts who use our platform to help pay the bills.”

“The partnerships we have established with landlords have made it clear that home sharing can be a win-win situation for everyone. The Airbnb Friendly Buildings Program allows tenants to leverage their greatest expense to make extra money and can create new economic opportunities for landlords. We are excited to have many such partnerships in place and we continue to see tremendous interest from forward-looking landlords and developers who understand that home sharing is going to be part of the solution, especially for millennials who are facing historic debt.”

Aimco spokeswoman Cindy Lempke said the companies disagree with the court’s decision and application of the Communication Decency Act.

They are considering all their legal options in California at this time, Lempke said, noting a similar complaint filed in the state of Florida is ongoing and Airbnb’s motion to dismiss was denied several weeks ago.

“Airbnb is not a passive online platform, but an active and knowing participant in the illegal short-term rentals of our apartments,” Lempke said.

“Aimco has made the deliberate choice to expressly prohibit short-term rentals to unaccountable Airbnb users who have not undergone our background screening, who cause disruption for our residents, and who are apt to treat our apartments like hotel rooms rather than homes.”

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