Rent-control laws limiting the rents private landlords can charge tenants are controversial in the United States. Critics have condemned rent control’s mandated wealth transfer from landlords to tenants, and economists have decried its negative effects on rental supply and quality. With the advent of the sharing economy, rent-controlled tenants can rent out their below-market units for short durations at market-level or premium prices, a practice I term “rent control sharing.” The reaction to rent-controlled tenants pocketing money from Airbnb and other homesharing sites at the expense of their hapless landlords has been negative. Yet, the sharing economy has not changed an essential feature of rent control: the redistribution of wealth from landlord to tenant. Instead, Airbnb and similar platforms have altered the form of the redistribution and the legal relations between landlord and tenant, and increased the salience of the wealth transfer from landlord to tenant. As a result, rent control sharing collides with public preferences for in-kind redistribution and stronger legal protections for property used personally or intimately. This Article explores how rent control sharing accentuates some of the flaws of rent control and fuels the debate over rent control’s future.
I thank Ronit Levine-Schnur, Shelly Kreiczer-Levy, Shai Stern, and the participants of the Sharing Economy 2018 Workshop, the College of Law & Business, Ramat Gan, Israel for their helpful comments.
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