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