NetChoice president Steve DelBianco said: “If homeowners want to host paying guests, they need to understand concerns raised by neighbours and local government officials, and be ready to respond with real data and smart policy solutions. That’s why this playbook is an indispensable resource.”
Ask any American about the American Dream and you’re likely to hear about home ownership. And if that American is a Millennial, like me, you’re likely to hear that home ownership remains just that: a dream.
But even for those Americans who do own homes, what started as a dream can quickly become a drag. That’s because most homes come with 30-year mortgages attached to them. And in places with high income taxes and high property taxes such as Maryland, homeowners often struggle to stay afloat.
New Jersey’s Department of Labor slapped Uber with an astronomical $650 million fine last month. Why?
It seems the state has decided that Uber drivers aren’t contract workers, but rather, employees. For those very drivers, it was shocking news.
So it goes, the Garden State taxed Uber, seeking to morph Uber drivers into employees. The government, too, is looking to backdate that change so that the company owes the government income taxes from its previous years of operation. But this forced reclassification threatens a thriving marketplace that has served both riders and drivers tremendously. It’s the same kind of initiative that’s been tried on the West Coast — this year, California passed a law that will reclassify as employees a huge number of contractors across the state.
Earlier this month, Congressman Ed Case introduced a bill that would make finding accommodation on your next getaway more expensive—regardless of where you choose to stay.
Why? It turns out hotels don’t like your cheap stays with Airbnb and HomeAway, and they’re lining up behind this bill to run those platforms off the market.
The Hawaii Democrat calls it the “PLAN Act,” short for Protecting Local Authority and Neighborhoods. The bill would amend a crucial internet provision called Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act—the law that enables online services to host large amounts of user-created content without bearing liability for that content.
“This bill creates a moral hazard by letting big hotel chains harass short term rental competitors, just so the big hotels can further increase their room rates,” says Steve DelBianco, president of NetChoice, a trade association of e-commerce businesses. “Weakening Section 230 will damage Americans’ ability to communicate online. The bill empowers Marriott to stop us from lawfully earning rental income on our own homes.”
Steve DelBianco, president of e-commerce trade group NetChoice, which promotes free speech on the internet, called Section 230 “the greatest internet law that no one’s ever heard of.”
He said issues with short-term rentals should be addressed at the local level.
“Congress should not get involved with how the city of Austin, Texas, enforces its lodging and local zoning laws against property owners,” DelBianco said. “But Congress is being pulled into this competitive conflict because Section 230 is a federal law and bars local governments from imposing liability on a platform for commerce and communication that came from users.”
Carl Szabo, NetChoice’s general counsel, argued that Case’s bill would encourage platforms to be less responsive to take down content of bad actors, which is a component of Section 230 and could lead to platforms not doing any moderation at all, similar to how 8chan operates.
“This bill would create disincentives for short term rental platforms to engage in active, aggressive, monitoring of homeowners,” he said.
Like others in the short-term rental lobby, DelBianco said NetChoice plans to educate lawmakers “on the general hazards of punching holes in Section 230.”
Today, NetChoice criticized a new bill introduced by Rep. Case (D-HI) that would upend the American short-term rental market by removing Section 230 protections for platforms where owners list their properties.
“This bill creates a moral hazard by letting big hotel chains harass short term rental competitors, just so the big hotels can further increase their room rates,” said Steve DelBianco, President of NetChoice. [see direct quotes from hotel chain executives below]
“Weakening Section 230 will damage Americans’ ability to communicate online. The bill empowers Marriott to stop us from lawfully earning rental income on our own homes.”
“It’s laughable to hold the Washington Post liable for bad acts associated with rentals that appear in classified ads — but that is what this bill does. This bill is so broad it allows cities to ban home rental ads on craigslist and on any website showing classified ads.”
Hotel chain executives have said on record that laws curtailing STRs would allow them to raise prices:
- LaSalle Hotel Properties’ CEO Mark Barnello told his investors that a law curtailing short-term rental services would allow hotels to boost their prices by eliminating competition. Passage of a law liming short-term rental services “should be a big boost in the arm for the business, certainly in terms of the pricing.”
- On an earnings call last year, Jon Bortz, Chief Executive of Pebblebrook Hotel Trust, which owns Embassy Suites, Doubletree and other hotels, said that Airbnb has put a dent on the company’s “ability to price at what maybe the customer would describe as sort of gouging rates.”
“The beneficiaries of this bill are big hotel chains who want to raise room rates without worrying that guests would consider short-term rentals as an alternative,” said NetChoice President Steve DelBianco. (His trade group members include all the major short-term rental platforms, from Airbnb to Expedia to Travelocity).