By: Jessica Alvarez, Member-Candidate, J.D. Candidate, May 2020, St. Thomas University School of Law.

In today’s society, Airbnb makes it possible for people to stay virtually everywhere, including right next door in your neighbor’s apartment. However, short-term rentals (less than 28 nights) are causing some problems for Airbnb. Recently, Miami Beach had made it illegal to rent residential properties in specific districts for less than six months and one day. In February 2017, Apartment Investment & Management Company (Aimco), one of the country’s largest residential landlords, sued Airbnb in both Los Angeles and Miami for allegedly failing to stop tenants from unauthorized subleasing. Aimco alleged that Airbnb has allowed “dozens, if not hundreds, of unlawful subleases” at its properties in these prohibited zones.

Airbnb’s defense centered on the 1996 Communications Decency Act, arguing that Airbnb is not responsible for listings and should be immune from suit for postings by third-party users on its website. In December 2017, this argument proved successful in the California case where the federal judge dismissed the case against Airbnb ruling that “Airbnb hosts—not Airbnb—are responsible for providing the actual listing information. Airbnb ‘merely provide[s] a framework that could be utilized for proper or improper purposes.’” However, it did not have the same effect on Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge William L. Thomas. In July 2018, Judge Thomas ruled that “this court declines to grant immunity simply because Airbnb asserts that it is simply using data initially obtained from third parties.” He also stated that the pleadings raised the question of “whether Airbnb creates or develops unlawful content or does Airbnb merely enable that content to be posted online” and “this question cannot be decided wholly on the pleadings.”

While the South Florida case moved forward to determine whether Airbnb was truly responsible for the listings by third-parties or not, Airbnb was “confident [they would] ultimately prevail in this case, as [they] did in California, and [July’s] order dis not resolve the case. Instead, it finds only that Aimco’s claims cannot be dismissed based solely on the allegations in its complaint.”