Bits: Daily Report: Airbnb Smooths Over a Legal Dispute

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Airbnb’s headquarters in San Francisco. The company has reached a settlement with the city, clearing up litigation that could have hampered its efforts to go public. Credit Jason Henry for The New York Times

Airbnb, the online room rental platform, has popularized a way for people to rent out their spare rooms or homes for what are typically short stays. In the process, the company has sometimes been accused of flouting housing laws and driving down the inventory of available homes for sale or long-term rent, leading to a spate of disputes with cities.

Airbnb has methodically been dealing with the legal brouhahas. It has sometimes sued cities, including San Francisco and New York, for what it says are unfair laws that hamper its hosts. And the company is increasingly trying to find ways to work together with cities to disentangle itself from legal complications.

On Monday, Airbnb exercised that strategy by settling a suit it had filed against San Francisco stemming from a decision by the city’s Board of Supervisors last year to fine a company like Airbnb $1,000 a day for every unregistered host on its service. Airbnb had filed suit to block the fines from taking effect.

Under the terms of the settlement, Airbnb essentially gives San Francisco what it was seeking — more transparency about the hosts who use the platform. With the deal, Airbnb and other online room rental companies have to collect data from people who rent out their homes for less than a month on the websites. San Francisco will use that information to vet and register hosts, writes Katie Benner, a New York Times technology reporter.

This is clearly a win for San Francisco — but it is a victory for Airbnb, too. With the settlement, the company is ridding itself of a major litigation hassle. That is helpful for a company that has said it could be ready to go public within a year.

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