Beacon Center Sues Nashville Over Airbnb Regulations

By Daniel A. Horwitz

The Beacon Center of Tennessee has sued the city of Nashville over its recent Airbnb ordinance.  According to its press release:

“In a major development, the Beacon Center today announced the formation of a brand new litigation arm, the Beacon Center Legal Foundation, and filed its first lawsuit. The Beacon Center is suing the city of Nashville on behalf of P.J. and Rachel Anderson. They are challenging unconstitutional regulations the city has placed on their ability to rent their home on Airbnb, a website that connects homeowners like them with guests visiting Nashville.”

The Beacon Center’s complaint, which is accessible here,  alleges myriad constitutional violations of both the U.S. and Tennessee Constitution, including:

  1. Violations of Article I, Section 8 of the Tennessee Constitution and the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (vagueness);
  1. Violations of Article I, Section 19 of the Tennessee Constitution and the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (commercial speech);
  1. Violations of Article I, Section 8 and Article XI, Section 8 of the Tennessee Constitution and the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (equal protection);
  1. Violations of Article I, Section 8 of the Tennessee Constitution and the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (substantive due process);
  1. Violation of Article I, Section 22 of the Tennessee Constitution (anti-monopoly); and
  1. Violation of Article I, Section 7 of the Tennessee Constitution and the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (unreasonable administrative search).

The complaint also claims that the plaintiffs are completely exempt from the requirements of Nashville’s Airbnb ordinance due to the fact that the ordinance is written in such a way that they “both fall under the ordinance and are exempted out of the ordinance.”

The author has previously flagged the potential unconstitutionality of, and the apparent drafting errors within, Nashville’s Airbnb ordinance here (“Is Nashville’s Airbnb Ordinance Constitutional?  Maybe not.”).  Additionally, coming off the heels of the U.S. Supreme Court’s most recent term, the legality of Nashville’s Airbnb ordinance fell even further into doubt as a result of Reed v. Town of Gilbert (a First Amendment signage case discussed here) and Los Angeles v. Patel (an administrative search case discussed here).

Without question, however, the most important component of the Beacon Center’s lawsuit will be its novel state constitutional claims, which allege that the Tennessee Constitution embodies a strong anti-protectionism principle.  If given effect, this principle, which has previously been expressed by the Tennessee Supreme Court but has lay dormant for many years, may spell trouble for any number of laws throughout Tennessee, from taxi regulations, to laws specifically undermining solar power, to Nashville’s recent local hire amendment.  Stay tuned.

Questions about this article?  Email Daniel Horwitz at daniel.a.horwitz@gmail.com.

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