Less than two weeks after filing a lawsuit, Airbnb Inc. is in talks with New York officials about a potential settlement. The lawsuit followed Governor Cuomo’s signing of a bill that fines residents who rent their apartments on sites like Airbnb. The company complained the law is vague and violates its rights to free speech.
A meeting scheduled for Monday was postponed by a federal judge. The parties are expected to update the court by the end of the week. Those familiar with the proceedings said the talks would clear up questions about how the law would be enforced.
The new law would allow fines up to $7,500 for those who advertise rentals of less than 30 days in multi-unit buildings in the city. Such short-term rentals have been illegal since 2010, but the new law would expand on it. Under the law, it is not a violation to share an apartment with guests or issue a short-term rental in a house.
Although the law’s wording does not make any direct mention of Airbnb, the company still filed its lawsuit. Airbnb’s complaint states that the new law appeared to target the website for fines. The lawsuit also says that this would be a violation of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, which protects internet publishers from liability for content that is provided by third parties.
There is speculation that the talks concern the notion that Airbnb could be liable for fines hosts incur. The correlation here is that hosts would be using Airbnb’s website to violate the state’s law. On Monday, Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, a Manhattan Democrat and co-sponsor of the bill, said that the law fines the hosts, not Airbnb. A spokesman for Mayor Bill de Blasio said:
“Our focus has and will continue to be operators of illegal hotels who put people in unsafe conditions and take affordable homes off the market.”
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