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Airbnb Defeats Landlord's Lawsuit in California

By William Vogeler, Esq. on January 08, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Airbnb is not liable for information that users post in breach of their leases, a federal judge said in Los Angeles.

U.S. Judge Dolly Gee said that the web-based service is protected by the Communications Decency Act, which shields internet service providers from liability for user content.

"Here, what allegedly makes the listings 'unlawful,' 'illegal,' or 'offending' is that they advertise rentals that violate Aimco's lease agreements," Gee said. "Airbnb hosts, not Airbnb, are responsible for providing the actual listing information."

Communications Decency Act

Congress enacted the Communications Decency Act in 1996, as internet communications became fertile ground for civil and criminal liability. The Act included protections for ISP's, which have been consistently upheld by the courts.

Apartment Investment & Management Co. (Aimco), one of the largest residential landlords in the country, alleged that Airbnb was responsible for tenants breaching their leases at its high-end apartment complexes. A unit in Los Angeles can rent for as much as $17,000 a month.

The company said that Airbnb tourists had been disrupting other tenants. It had to hire security to monitor properties and evict Airbnb guests.

Aimco sought a preliminary injunction to stop Airbnb's operations at four of its Southern California properties.

Not a "Content Provider"

However, Gee said Airbnb was covered by the CDA because it provided a service, not the content at issue.

"As stated above, an information content provider is statutorily defined as 'any person or entity that is responsible, in whole or in part, for the creation or development of information provided through the Internet or any other interactive computer service,'" the judge wrote.

She said Airbnb hosts provided the content -- not Airbnb. Meanwhile, Aimco is pressing a separate suit against Airbnb in Florida.

"Airbnb is not a passive online platform, but an active and knowing participant in the illegal short-term rentals of our apartments," spokeswoman Cindy Lempke said.

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