Airbnb, City of Santa Monica come to a compliance agreement
By Sam Catanzaro
The City of Santa Monica and vacation rental platform Airbnb have come to an agreement intended to ensure all of the company’s listings comply with the City’s short-term rental laws, which are some of the strictest in the country.
“After years of uncertainty for our host community in Santa Monica, the new settlement agreement provides our hosts the clarity they need to continue sharing their homes,” said Matt Middlebrook, Airbnb’s Head of Public Policy in California.
Under the agreement, announced Tuesday, Airbnb will remove illegal short-term rental listings upon City notice, monitor and remove multiple listings that exceed the City’s home-sharing limit and collect and pay a $2 per night to help support affordable housing in Santa Monica.
“We now can better protect real permanent homes, especially our affordable rent-controlled apartments, from being used as de facto hotel rooms, displacing our neighbors,” said Santa Monica City Councilmember Kevin McKeown.
Santa Monica has some of the strictest home-share regulations in the United States, outlawing rentals of whole houses to tourists and travelers for under 30 days. In addition, vacation-rental hosts in Santa Monica can only rent individual rooms to guests and must be present in the residence throughout the entire stay and hosts cannot have more than one listing at a time.
The City of Santa Monica and Airbnb began negotiating an agreement in August when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reaffirmed its rejection of Airbnb, Inc. and Homeaway.com’s challenge to the City’s home-sharing ordinance, which penalizes the online platforms for unlawfully booking short-term vacation rentals of unlicensed properties in Santa Monica.
The vacation-rental companies argued that the City’s ordinance ran afoul of the Communications Decency Act and the First Amendment because it required the platforms to monitor the content of third-party listings on their sites and remove listings for unlicensed properties. A panel of the Ninth Circuit rejected this argument finding that the Ordinance only “prohibits processing transactions for unregistered properties” and does not proscribe, mandate, or even discuss the content of the listings that the Platforms display on their websites. It requires only that transactions involve licensed properties.”
“We have fervently defended our ordinance and are pleased to reach a settlement with Airbnb that creates a workable system that aligns with our goal of protecting the City’s housing supply,” said City Attorney Lane Dilg. “This agreement with Airbnb will make the City’s enforcement efforts less costly and more effective; most importantly, it will preserve housing for our residents. This is a positive outcome for Santa Monica.”
According to the City, there are currently 351 registered home-shares in the city with Airbnb accounting for a large majority of the listings.
Last month, Airbnb and the City of Los Angeles came to a similar agreement intended to bolster compliance with LA’s regulations.