City Hall delays Airbnb rules til Feb. 28 amid lawsuit over home-sharing ordinance

By Jonathan Bilyk | Dec 14, 2016

As lawyers for both sides prepare to face off in federal court over a request by a group of Airbnb hosts to block Chicago City Hall’s new home-sharing rules from taking effect, the city has agreed to put off enforcement of the rules until the end of February.

On Dec. 13, lawyers for the city and lawyers for the group known as Keep Chicago Livable signed off on the agreement to forestall implementation of a city ordinance until Feb. 28. The ordinance had been set to take effect Dec. 17.

The two sides said they wished to provide proper time for the lawyers to draft and present arguments over Keep Chicago Livable’s request for a preliminary injunction against the ordinance.

“Defendant (the city of Chicago) agrees to this stay in order to allow the parties and the Court to address Plaintiffs’ Motion for a Preliminary Injunction in a measured fashion, rather than on an emergency basis,” the court document said. “By agreeing to this stay, Defendant does not concede the merit of Plaintiffs’ Motion or an of Plaintiffs’ claims.”

A hearing on the preliminary injunction request has been scheduled for Feb. 1.

The agreement to put off enforcement of the rules comes as the latest step in the legal challenge brought against the new ordinance by Keep Chicago Livable in early November.

At that time, the group had filed their complaint in federal court, saying the city’s new regulations were unconstitutional, and would trample on hosts private property rights and freedoms of speech and association.

“The Shared Housing Ordinance, which purports to attempt to regulate the phenomenon of home sharing on internet sites such as Airbnb, HomeAway, FlipKey and VRBO, in fact operates as a de facto and in some cases outright ban on the use of internet home sharing services, and violates the constitutional rights of Chicagoans to speak and communicate freely and anonymously on the internet, to use their own property, to have privacy, and to not be subject to arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement of the laws,” the lawsuit alleged.

Supporters of the ordinance, which was approved earlier this summer, was needed to strengthen the ability of the city to police short-term rentals of condos, apartments and homes in the city’s neighborhoods and high rises. Supporters said the regulations arose in response to complaints from neighbors of the rented properties who said the short-term tenants disrupted their neighborhoods or their buildings, and threatened public safety.

The hotel and motel industry had also complained, saying the home-sharing platforms, like Airbnb, enabled building owners to essentially run small hotel operations using otherwise vacant homes and apartments, sidestepping city hotel regulations.

However, the Keep Chicago Livable lawsuit said the ordinance would go too far, essentially granting control of the dwellings listed by potential home-sharing hosts to the city – or to potentially persnickety neighbors, who could conceivably shut down a home-sharing host with a complaint to City Hall.

The home-sharing hosts have further argued the ordinance would give the city too much power to peer into the private affairs of both the hosts and the guests who rent the space from them.

And the hosts said the fines prescribed by the ordinance are excessive, threatening hosts with citations of $1,500-$5,000 per day, per violation.

Keep Chicago Livable is represented in the action by attorney Shorge K. Sato, of the firm of Shoken Legal, of Chicago.

The city is represented by attorneys with the city’s Department of Law.

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