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Online holiday rental firm HomeAway has filed a lawsuit today against the city and county of San Francisco over city legislator’s plans to bar non-residents from offering short-term rentals.
HomeAway claims the move discriminates against second home owners, non-resident companies and individuals that advertise short-term rentals, “and effectively turns over control of short-term rentals to the San Francisco-based company Airbnb”.
It is seeking an injunction to prevent the city from enforcing the short-term rental ordinance introduced by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.
HomeAway claims the ordinance is also unconstitutional in that it allows only San Francisco residents to rent on a short-term basis, banning individuals who live in the city part-time from what is now otherwise a legal activity.
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors maintains its goal is to “preserve housing stock” and “reduce negative effects on affordable housing”.
But HomeAway claims there is no evidence that shows prohibiting non-residents from having short-term rentals has an impact on affordable housing.
Company co-founder, Carl Shepherd, said: “In a community known for promoting equality and an entrepreneurial spirit, it is shocking the Supervisors passed a law that, in our opinion, stifles opportunity in such a discriminatory manner.
“In its apparently single-minded goal to ‘legalize Airbnb’, we claim the Supervisors ignored the benefits of responsibly regulating a well-established industry, and embraced an unconstitutional and unenforceable regulation.
“As the industry leader, HomeAway feels a duty to fight for the entire short-term rental industry and the rights of all property owners, including the owners of the 1,200 San Francisco properties who advertise on HomeAway.”
He added: “Ultimately, this rule restricts consumer choice in both how to offer or find a property and requires HomeAway and most of its competitors to overhaul their businesses to comply with a regulation that is almost entirely unenforceable.”
“Our goal is to work with the city to amend the law to one that balances the needs of the community with the rights of all people to rent their properties, regardless of who they are, where they choose to live and how they choose to market those properties.
“We expected any ordinance in San Francisco would be thought-leading public policy, but instead it fails on all counts resulting from a desire to anoint winners and losers, not to create policies that are fair to all.”