Airbnb denies responsibility for hosts’ lawbreaking while hiding data to shield lawbreakers – law prof

By ThinkPol Staff

Airbnb and other short term rental platforms refuse to accept responsibility for unlawful actions by their hosts while at the same time shielding the lawbreakers against any meaningful law enforcement by making data impossible to obtain, a top law professor argues.

“The platforms disclaim responsibility for the actions of hosts who do not have the right to make their units available for short-term rental,” Dr. Teresa Scassa, the Canada Research Chair in Information Law at the University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law, writes in a paper[1]https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3077996
recently published in the UBC Law Review.

Prof. Scassa argues demonstrates that “the proprietary and nontransparent nature of platform data combined with the circumvention of the regulatory regimes that serve as a municipal data collection mechanism mean that data permitting the identification of rental units, those who make these units available to the public, and the nature and extent of use in each case are difficult and cumbersome for outsiders such as municipalities, landlords, and condominium corporations to obtain.”

“While platforms leave legal compliance obligations squarely with hosts, they also provide a technological barrier that shields hosts from detection and accountability for noncompliance,” she asserts in Sharing Data in the Platform Economy: A Public Interest Argument for Access to Platform Data.

Prof. Scassa questions Airbnb’s claim that it “connects people to unique travel experiences at any price point” and at the same time “is the easiest way for people to monetize their extra space and showcase it to an audience of millions.”

“This characterization of Airbnb is open to challenge,” she points out. “Several studies, including ones by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives[2]https://www.policyalternatives.ca/airbnb, the City of Vancouver[3]http://council.vancouver.ca/20161005/documents/pspc1c.pdf, and the NY State Attorney General[4]https://ag.ny.gov/pdfs/AIRBNB%20REPORT.pdf suggest that a significant number of units for rent on Airbnb are offered as part of commercial enterprises.”

Prof. Scassa recommends municipalities to fill the data gaps as a first priority.

“The data deficits related to short-term rental platforms are a small piece of a larger context in which evolving technologies shift control over some kinds of data from public to private hands,” the author concludes. “Ensuring the ability of governments and civil society to collect, retain, and share data of a sufficient quality to both enable and enhance governance, transparency, and accountability should be priorities for municipal governments, and should also be supported by law and policy at provincial and federal levels.”

References   [ + ]

1. https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3077996
2. https://www.policyalternatives.ca/airbnb
3. http://council.vancouver.ca/20161005/documents/pspc1c.pdf
4. https://ag.ny.gov/pdfs/AIRBNB%20REPORT.pdf

One Response to Airbnb denies responsibility for hosts’ lawbreaking while hiding data to shield lawbreakers – law prof

  1. nonconfidencevote says:

    If the City of Vancouver and Kaye “Hairy” Krishna’s Dept wont enforce the rules……

    Perhaps Revenue Canada should hire a Dept of Auditors to focus specifically on AirBnb Rentals?
    perhaps insurance companies should start denying claims for the underinsured homeowner of AirBnb suites?

    Remember Gregor and his lickspittle followers at “Visionless Vancouver” next Nov 2018 people.

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