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Federal Class Action Lawsuit Filed to Challenge Chicago's New Shared Housing Ordinance

Dec 07, 2016

The press release below was published by Keep Chicago Livable regarding the lawsuit titled, Keep Chicago Livable and Benjamin Thomas Wolf v. City of Chicago, which is aimed to protect home-sharing rights, such as those for Airbnb hosts.

Keep Chicago Livable Sues City To Stop Anti-Home Sharing Ordinance

CHICAGO—A group of Chicago residents called Keep Chicago Livable filed a first-in-the-nation federal class action lawsuit challenging the City of Chicago’s new shared housing ordinance that seeks to regulate activity on home sharing websites such as Airbnb.    

The lawsuit, titled Keep Chicago Livable and Benjamin Thomas Wolf v. City of Chicago, alleges that the City of Chicago’s ordinance, which was enacted on June 22, 2016 and goes into full effect on or around December 17, 2016, is an unconstitutional assault on the rights of homeowners.

“All Americans have a fundamental right to host their own invited guests in their homes without asking the government for prior permission,” stated Robert Reda, managing partner of the law firm of Reda & Des Jardins LLC, and co-counsel on the lawsuit. 

The Chicago ordinance is unique among municipal attempts to regulate home sharing in that it represents an attempted compromise between city regulators and companies such as Airbnb. The ordinance requires hosts to comply with standards that far exceed the quality and safety standards imposed upon hotels and motels, and further requires shared housing and vacation rental hosts to pay an additional 4% surcharge above and beyond the 17.4% hotel accommodations tax.

“This law unfairly places all of its burdens and penalties upon hosts who enjoy sharing their own homes for social reasons,” said Shorge Kenneth Sato, the lead attorney for Keep Chicago Livable. “The law puts a gun to the head of such hosts and says, ‘Register with us or else, and by the way, if you register, the government now controls your home.’”

Once registered, a host must remove all alcohol from the home; a host is prohibited from providing food to a guest, unless the host transforms their home into a commercial kitchen; a host is required to “snitch” on a guest if they suspect criminal activity; a host is required to enforce quiet hours starting at 8 p.m.; and a host is required to post government-mandated signage including their personal information by their front door.  Failure to comply with these regulations – which include mandates to do household chores – could result in penalties of $3,000 or more per day per violation. 

Chicago resident and former FBI national security official, Benjamin Thomas Wolf, is concerned with how Chicago plans on monitoring and enforcing its vast new law. “The city is working with Airbnb to build a backdoor into its massive database of private user data, without a warrant or user consent.  This is a clear violation of federal law. Instead of using a dragnet approach, the city should be partnering with the responsible hosts to craft sensible regulations, which they never did.”

The lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois on Friday, November 4, 2016 and is docketed as Case No. 1:16-cv-10371.  Keep Chicago Livable is hopeful that the city will agree to a temporary injunction to allow federal judge Sara Ellis to sort out the many issues raised, and to allow time for negotiations to fix this law.

 About Keep Chicago Livable

Keep Chicago Livable is an Illinois not-for-profit corporation that was formed by home sharing users and Airbnb hosts in Chicago, for such hosts and is made up of such hosts. Initially founded to help educate Chicagoans about how to comply with the new law, Keep Chicago Livable has expanded its mission to help clarify the shared housing ordinance through the courts, to advocate for responsible home sharing, and to develop compliance products to limit host liability.

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Press release originally published on November 11, 2016 by Keep Chicago Livable here:


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