Airbnb Host’s Civil Rights Lawsuit Against City Advances

A Brooklyn Airbnb host who claimed he was unfairly targeted by the city in retaliation for his advocacy against legislation regulating home-sharing activity will move forward with a civil rights lawsuit after a U.S. District Court judge dismissed some of his claims but declined to throw out the suit in full. The Airbnb user had sued New York City in federal court, claiming that the Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement retaliated against him for speaking out in favor of the company by hitting him with $32,000 in fines. The lawsuit is funded by Airbnb. In his lawsuit, 59-year-old Stanley Karol claimed that he is disabled and uses Airbnb to rent out rooms in his home.

Karol had appeared in an Airbnb video speaking about his negative experience with OSE and testified in favor of Airbnb at a City Council hearing. One week after his testimony, his lawsuit claims, the city received an anonymous tip, and agents for the Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement, which is charged with regulating and enforcing illegal hotel laws, showed up and fined him $32,000 for not having a sprinkler system and fire alarm, failing to provide proper exits, and because his basement was “illegally converted to transient use.”

In his ruling, Judge John Koeltl dismissed First Amendment claims against three of the OSE officers. However, he declined to dismiss the claim against a fourth officer, allowing a narrower version of the case to proceed.