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Chicago City Council Removes Some of the Assaults on Privacy from Home-Sharing Ordinance

February 27, 2017

CHICAGO – Chicagoans who share their homes through online platforms such as Airbnb no will longer be forced to hand over their guests’ personal information to city officials at any time without a warrant. The change in Chicago’s home-sharing ordinance comes in response to a lawsuit filed by the Goldwater Institute and Liberty Justice Center.

The lawsuit, Mendez v. Chicago, was filed in the Cook County Circuit Court in November 2016 after the Chicago City Council passed an extraordinarily restrictive ordinance that restricts the right of property owners to rent out their homes on platforms like Airbnb and Homeaway. In addition to sharply reducing the right to rent out property, the ordinance requires property owners to allow city officials to search their premises “at any time and in any manner,” forbids “excessive” noise, and imposes a special 4 percent tax on home-sharers that does not apply to hotels.

Liberty Justice Center and Goldwater lawyers filed a motion for an immediate stay against two provisions of the ordinance: the search provision and the requirement that home-sharers give up their guests’ personal information upon demand to city inspectors. The change to the ordinance eliminates the latter requirement, and ensures that city officials must get a warrant or other similar pre-approval before demanding such information. In response, the Goldwater Institute and Liberty Justice Center filed a motion to dismiss this aspect of their lawsuit, which Judge Sanjay T. Tailor granted on Monday morning.

“Chicago’s anti-home-sharing law is one of the most intrusive laws in the history of the city,” said Christina Sandefur, executive vice president of the Goldwater Institute and one of the attorneys on the case. “This change is a step in the right direction to help protect the rights of Chicagoans to use their property as they see fit. But a lot remains to be done.”

“We’re pleased the city has repealed one obviously unconstitutional provision of its home-sharing ordinance and will no longer violate the privacy rights of home-sharers and their guests in this way,” said Jacob Huebert, senior attorney at the Liberty Justice Center. “But the city shouldn’t have stopped there. This ordinance is still full of unconstitutional provisions that violate homeowners’ rights.”

Although the Liberty Justice Center and Goldwater Institute filed a motion to dismiss this aspect of the lawsuit, the case will continue to challenge other unconstitutional aspects of Chicago’s anti-home-sharing ordinance, including:

  • Provisions that allow the city to search home-sharers’ homes at any time, for any reason, without a warrant, which violate the constitutional right to be free from unreasonable searches.
  • Provisions that prohibit someone who owns a single-family home or a unit in a building with four or fewer units from renting it out through a home-sharing platform unless the home is the owner’s personal primary residence.
  • Provisions that limit the number of units in a building that can be listed on a home-sharing platform.
  • Provisions that impose vague and unintelligible restrictions on “excessive” noise—but do not impose similar restrictions on hotels.
  • Provisions that impose higher taxes on home-sharing rentals than on hotel rooms.

New York, San Francisco, Honolulu, among many other cities have imposed restrictions on home-sharing. The Goldwater Institute crafted a law that has been adopted in Arizona to block cities from banning or overly restricting home-sharing. The law is under consideration in additional states this year.

Read about the lawsuit, Mendez v. Chicago here.



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