Will California Legislature Kill AirBnB With Overregulation?

Airbnb Pride (Quinn Dombrowski / Flickr / CC)
Quinn Dombrowski / Flickr / CC

AirBnb is one of the largest websites in the world for connecting up those interested in renting out their home, their apartment, or even a room in their home or apartment to someone on vacation. Launched as a startup in 2008, AirBnB now has over a million listings in over 34,000 cities around the world.

Only three countries in the world have no listings in the extensive AirBnB online inventory: North Korea, Syria and Iran. But if State Senator Mike McGuire (D-Healdsberg) gets his way, maybe you can add a state, California, to the list of AirBnB-vacant political jurisdictions.

Under legislation proposed by McGuire, SB 593, the online company would be slammed with outrageous new regulatory burdens. The bill would even put the responsibility of local code enforcement on AirBnB.

Specifically, SB 593 would require online vacation rental sites like AirBnB to collect lodging taxes at the request of local governments. It would also prohibit bookings in cities or counties that ban short-term rentals, and would also require sites like AirBnB to report “big data”–such as number of guests and length of stay to cities and counties.

As was reported in Breitbart News, at a recent Sacramento hearing of the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee, Airbnb’s David Owen, backed by throngs of millennial age Airbnb “hosts,” praised the economic boost homeowners receive from home-sharing. Owen described SB 593 as a “blunt instrument intended to stunt the growth of an incredibly valuable industry.”

No kidding.

Senator McGuire must be getting his cues from his liberal colleague, Assemblyman Aldrin Nazarian who keeps introducing bills on behalf of the taxi-cab industry designed to try and legislate transportation network rivals like Uber out of the California marketplace.

The legislature was right to reject Nazarian’s anti-Uber efforts totally last year, and frankly it should be doing the same to McGuire’s anti-AirBnB efforts this year.

Can you think of a better way to stifle the “shared economy” of a site like AirBnB than by foisting upon the proprietors a requirement that they collect, monitor and update local rental policies and local tax policies in 482 different cities (let alone unincorporated areas within the jurisdiction one of California’s 58 counties)?

Of course that isn’t realistic.

AirBnB does treat those seeking to rent out their place like adults. Before you can put up your pad for rent you are given a disclaimer that includes advising you to look up and be aware of what local regulations apply to you–such as hotel/transient taxes, rent control ordinances and such.

It’s the job of local governments to enforce and collect their local taxes–do we really want state government in that role?

It is worth mentioning that SB 593 targets AirBnB, but not its largest competitor, VRBO (Vacation Rental By Owner), which allows users to pay an annual fee and then transact their rental agreements offline.

Trying to kill the “shared economy” by requiring online companies to play municipal tax collectors isn’t enough for this legislation, which also seeks to enlist AirBnB and straight into the nanny state.

I’m not prone to quoting the editorial page of the Los Angeles Times too often. But the sheer eloquence by which the editors eviscerate the part of McGuire’s SB 593 that requires AirBnB to collect and report data to the government is worth excerpting:

Where the proposal goes off the rails, though, is in requiring the room-sharing companies to regularly report to city officials who’s listing properties at what addresses, along with the number of days each property has been rented out and the price paid. That would set a dangerous precedent for forcing private companies to monitor the behavior of their customers on behalf of the government. If it’s good for Airbnb, why not require automakers to have their cars generate reports for the police whenever they’re driven faster than 70 mph in California, the highest possible legal speed? Or require contractors to alert the city when they’re asked to build an addition that’s too large?

There are plenty of important things on which the California legislature could and should be focusing its efforts. SB 593, which does more harm than good, should be voted down.

In fact, someone owes the entrepreneurs at AirBnB, whose hard work has resulted in hundreds of jobs at the company’s San Francisco headquarters, an apology.

Jon Fleischman is the Politics Editor of Breitbart California. A longtime participant, observer and chronicler of California politics, Jon is also the publisher at www.flashreport.org. His column appears weekly on this page. You can reach Jon at jfleischman@breitbart.com.


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