An interesting ruling came down this week in an Airbnb case stemming from tenants illegally offering apartments for short-term rentals in violation of their lease agreements in South Florida.
Bay Parc Plaza Apartments filed suit in 2017 against Airbnb with multiple claims of trespass, tortious interference with a contract, and violations of the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act.
Airbnb attempted to have the case dismissed based on protections under the Communications Decency Act (CDA). Because the CDA protects operators of internet services from liability for content posted from third parties who use their services, Airbnb argued that short-term rental listings on their website posted by tenants within an apartment building qualified as third party content and Airbnb, therefore, is immune to suit for that content under the CDA.
Miami-Dade County Judge William L. Thomas disagrees. In the 18-page order, he reasoned that because Airbnb actually helped broker the short-term rentals (as opposed to simply providing a forum for the vacancy postings), Airbnb might not fall within the CDA’s protection:
This court cannot find, based solely upon the pleadings, that internet businesses like Airbnb are entitled to absolute immunity anytime a lawsuit involves third-party content or website postings.”
While the case is still pending resolution, this is a good reminder for owners of apartment buildings, as well as tenants wanting to take advantage of Airbnb’s services, to carefully review their lease agreements.