Airbnb engaged in bitter battle with New York State

By Danny King

NYC apartment buildingAirbnb is embroiled in a war of words with the New York state attorney general, who chastised the home rental company for giving “the cold shoulder” to regulators.

In an op-ed, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman rebuked Airbnb for “refusing” to prevent illegal transactions in New York City. A 2010 law forbids New York City residents from renting out their dwellings for fewer than 30 days.

“When my office reached out to Airbnb, the company rejected the idea of self-policing out of hand and refused to provide data that would give us a handle on the scope of the problem,” Schneiderman said. “With my hope of working in partnership with Airbnb dashed, we were forced to subpoena the company for information, a step that Airbnb has attempted to quash in court.”

Among other beefs with Airbnb, Schneiderman said some New York property owners are “large, commercial enterprises with dozens of apartments — truly illegal hotels.”

On Monday, Airbnb said it had removed more than 2,000 New York listings, according to the company’s public policy blog.

David Hantman, Airbnb’s head of global public policy, said that the New York Attorney General’s Office had “circulated a list of Airbnb users with a large number of listings,” and that every host on the list had been notified that their listings will be permanently removed.

Schneiderman said that Airbnb’s removal of listings “suggests that our concerns are not misplaced.”

Hantman maintains that “the vast majority of our hosts are just regular people, renting out their own home to travelers.” He referred to continued state requests for information on Airbnb hosts as a “government-sponsored fishing expedition.”

Schneiderman’s op-ed was published in the New York Times on Wednesday, the day after a state hearing in Albany, N.Y. A judge attempted to broker a deal in which Airbnb would agree to turn over a list of all of its New York hosts. The company refused.

Meanwhile, in Portland, Ore., the city council will vote on new regulations for providers of short-term accommodations. If the law is passed, people who have listings on Airbnb and similar sites will have to prove that they are residents of the city, provide information to their neighbors and pay a fee for an annual permit.

Last week, San Francisco Board of Supervisors President David Chiu proposed legislation that would require prospective hosts to prove residency and subject them to the city’s rent-control and taxation laws.

Residents would be required to prove they live in San Francisco nine months out of the year. Violators would be subject to a “blacklist” from listing platforms such as Airbnb, Chiu said.

Follow Danny King on Twitter @dktravelweekly. 

Photo of apartment building in Manhattan courtesy of Shutterstock. 

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