Homeaway, Inc. Files Lawsuit Against the City of San Francisco for the Right to Rent; Claims "Airbnb Law" Is Unconstitutional

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HomeAway, Inc. (NASDAQ: AWAY) has filed a lawsuit against the city and county of San Francisco. The company seeks an injunction to prevent the city from enforcing the recently passed short-term rental ordinance, which they believe discriminates against second home owners and non-resident companies and individuals.

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.

HomeAway, Inc. (NASDAQ: AWAY), the world’s leading online marketplace for vacation rentals, filed a lawsuit today against the city and county of San Francisco (3:14-cv-04859, United States District Court for the Northern District of California). The company seeks an injunction to prevent the city from enforcing the recently passed short-term rental ordinance (Ordinance No. 140381), which HomeAway claims discriminates against second home owners and non-resident companies and non-resident individuals that advertise short-term rentals, and effectively turns over control of short-term rentals to the San Francisco-based company Airbnb.

"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,” says Carl Shepherd, co-founder of HomeAway. “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.”

HomeAway claims the ordinance violates the Constitution’s interstate commerce clause by requiring companies providing “Hosting Platforms,” defined as “a person or entity through which an Owner [or lessee] may offer a Residential Unit” for short-term use, to conform to one specific business model, or face legal penalties.

“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,” says Shepherd.

HomeAway alleges 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. While the San Francisco Board of Supervisors maintains its goal is to “preserve housing stock” and “reduce negative effects on affordable housing,” there is no evidence that shows prohibiting non-residents from having short-term rentals has an impact on affordable housing.

“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,” says Shepherd. “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.”

About HomeAway
HomeAway, Inc. based in Austin, Texas, is the world's leading online marketplace for the vacation rental industry, with sites representing over one million paid listings of vacation rental homes in 190 countries. Through HomeAway, owners and property managers offer an extensive selection of vacation homes that provide travelers with memorable experiences and benefits, including more room to relax and added privacy, for less than the cost of traditional hotel accommodations. The company also makes it easy for vacation rental owners and property managers to advertise their properties and manage bookings online. The HomeAway portfolio includes the leading vacation rental websites HomeAway.com, VRBO.com and VacationRentals.com in the United States; HomeAway.co.uk and OwnersDirect.co.uk in the United Kingdom; HomeAway.de in Germany; Abritel.fr and Homelidays.com in France; HomeAway.es and Toprural.es in Spain; AlugueTemporada.com.br in Brazil; HomeAway.com.au and Stayz.com.au in Australia; and Bookabach.co.nz in New Zealand. Asia Pacific short-term rental site, travelmob.com, is also owned by HomeAway.

HomeAway also operates BedandBreakfast.com, the most comprehensive global site for finding bed-and-breakfast properties, providing travelers with another source for unique lodging alternatives to chain hotels.

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Jordan Hoefar
HomeAway.com
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