fb-pixel Skip to main content

Airbnb to appeal ruling that upheld key part of city’s short-term rental law

Dierong Lin (center) and other Chinatown residents and activists protested in Boston against Airbnb and other short-term rental groups that they say are pushing out families from local housing.Suzanne Kreiter/Globe File 2017/Globe staff

The legal sparring between Airbnb and the City of Boston continues.

The homesharing giant filed notice Friday it will appeal a federal court ruling last month that upheld a key piece of Boston’s tough new short-term rental rules.

A judge allowed Boston to impose a $300-per-night fine on Airbnb and other online platforms for booking short-term rentals that are illegal under the new rules, noting that similar fines had withstood legal challenges in California. Now Airbnb says it plans to appeal.

It’s the latest twist in a lengthy legal battle that is slowing the launch of short-term rental rules in Boston. The city had agreed not to enforce disputed sections of the law — such as the fines — until they were ruled on by a judge.


Last year, Mayor Martin J. Walsh signed a law barring most non-owner-occupied homes in the city from being used as short-term rentals, citing complaints from neighborhood and hotel groups and growing concerns that rental housing was being leased by the night to tourists instead of by the year to local residents. The law took effect Jan. 1., though so far only 77 properties have registered in Boston as short-term rentals, according to a city database. City officials have said they hope registrations will increase once a statewide registry launches this summer.

But enforcement hinges on cooperation from platforms such as Airbnb, which have exploded in popularity in recent years and dominate the short-term rental market in cities such as Boston. Airbnb objected to parts of the law as it was being crafted by the City Council and quickly challenged it in court after it was signed by Walsh, maintaining that it couldn’t be held responsible for what private citizens post on the platform.

In a preliminary ruling last month, US District Judge Leo Sorokin rejected that argument — noting that Airbnb collects booking fees and is thus more than simply a publisher of listings. But Sorokin did uphold Airbnb’s complaints against parts of Boston’s law that would have required it to monitor listings and share with the city data on hosts.


Both sides claimed a win in that ruling. But now Airbnb is hoping for a total victory on appeal.

Tim Logan can be reached at tim.logan@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @bytimlogan.