Judge sides with Airbnb in lawsuit from US apartment landlord

A court has ruled that tenants are liable for unauthorized rentals.

Reuters/Gabrielle Lurie

Airbnb may have just dodged a bullet. A Los Angeles federal judge has ruled against major American landlord Apartment Investment & Management Co (AIMCO) in its lawsuit accusing Airbnb of helping tenants violate their lease agreements through unapproved short-term rentals. The judge determined that Airbnb was protected by the Communications Decency Act, which protects internet services against liability for the content posted by their users. It's the tenants that are responsible for the rule-breaking listings, the court said, not Airbnb for hosting them.

AIMCO sued Airbnb in 2017 after some of its tenants in upscale LA apartments complained about Airbnb tourists making noise, damaging property and putting residents at risk. It hoped to bar Airbnb from listing any of its properties. Airbnb already has terms of service that requires rental hosts to obey lease agreements and local laws, but that clearly hasn't stopped some customers.

Airbnb is unsurprisingly happy with the outcome. The decision lets it "continue to support tenant hosts" who use rentals to "help pay the bills," according to a statement (you can read it in full below). It also used the remark to take a not-so-subtle dig at AIMCO, arguing that "forward-looking landlords" could join its Friendly Buildings Program to make money alongside their tenants.

The verdict won't help the tenants themselves, since they did break their leases. Moreover, it won't address gripes from apartment dwellers concerned that their buildings are becoming makeshift hotels, which tends to drive up rental rates and spur complaints. However, it could prompt greater clarity from landlords. If their agreements do forbid Airbnb-style rentals, they may be more likely to explicitly warn tenants knowing that they can't sue Airbnb for compensation.

"We are pleased with the court's decision that ensures Airbnb can continue to support tenant hosts who use our platform to help pay the bills. The partnerships we have established with landlords have made it clear that home sharing can be a win-win situation for everyone. The Airbnb Friendly Buildings Program allows tenants to leverage their greatest expense to make extra money and can create new economic opportunities for landlords. We are excited to have many such partnerships in place and we continue to see tremendous interest from forward-looking landlords and developers who understand that home sharing is going to be part of the solution, especially for Millennials who are facing historic debt."