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Student Article


Airbnb is one example of the “Sharing Economy” whereby owners and consumers connect to share “space, skill, and stuff” for monetary and non-monetary benefits. Although this concept is not a new one, it has garnered much attention recently due to the proliferation of internet start-ups, which, like Airbnb, connect owners and consumers both easily and efficiently. The increasing relevance of the Sharing Economy, and likely continued success of Airbnb, provides an opportunity to consider how Airbnb fits into traditional legal frameworks and evaluate whether states and municipalities should enact laws regulating Airbnb.

Part II of this Article introduces the concept of the Sharing Economy, outlines different systems within it, and suggests reasons for its success as well as future implications. Part II further considers the inception of Airbnb and potential for its continued success before briefly discussing how Airbnb fits into the Sharing Economy, overall. Part III focuses on the legal relationship that is created when, using the platform Airbnb provides, individuals rent space in their homes to travelers seeking short-term accommodations. Specifically, this relationship will be considered in the context of two distinct and long-standing areas of law: landlord and tenant law and the law of innkeepers. Part III traces the historical roots and evolution of both these areas of law with particular attention paid to the different rights and obligations of the parties within each body of law. This Section provides the general framework for Part IV in which the Author argues that the relationship between Airbnb “hosts” and “guests” is not so easily defined under current law. That is, in individual cases a landlord-tenant relationship may be created, whereas in other circumstances the relationship may bear a closer resemblance to that of an innkeeper and his guest. Part IV then considers policy arguments in support of regulating Airbnb before concluding the Airbnb host and guest relationship is best understood in terms of the law of innkeepers and should be regulated accordingly.

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