Airbnb, San Francisco settle lawsuit over short-term rental law

A 3D printed people's models are seen in front of a displayed Airbnb logo in this illustration

A 3D printed people's models are seen in front of a displayed Airbnb logo in this illustration taken, June 8, 2016. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

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By Heather Somerville and Dan Levine

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Airbnb and the city of San Francisco have settled a lawsuit over a local ordinance that had forbidden the home-rental company from taking bookings from hosts who have not registered their homes.

City officials across the United States have sought to maximize tax collection on rental units, sparking legal fights with tech advocates who say internet firms should not be hamstrung by myriad local rules on what they can publish.

In a statement on Monday, San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera said the settlement will require new Airbnb hosts to register with the city before posting rentals on the site.

Airbnb will set up a simple way for hosts to register with the city through its website. The company will give the city a monthly list of San Francisco listings so the city can verify whether a host has registered.

Airbnb, which is based in San Francisco, will cancel future stays and deactivate listings if there is an invalid registration, Herrera said.

Airbnb global policy chief Chris Lehane said the settlement will have to be endorsed by the mayor and the city's board of supervisors.

"For us it's really, really important that we continue to put these kinds of partnerships in place," Lehane said. "We fundamentally do believe that platforms need to take responsibility."

The San Francisco ordinance, enacted last year, made it illegal for Airbnb to collect fees for providing booking services for rentals that had not been properly registered. Airbnb makes money by charging a service fee on bookings.

Airbnb contended that the ordinance violated a broad federal law that protects internet companies from liability for content posted on their platforms.

A San Francisco judge rejected that argument but said he had concerns over how San Francisco would enforce the ordinance fairly.

Herrera called the settlement "a turning point when it comes to enforcement."

(Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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