Home-sharing site Airbnb went to court in Albany, N.Y., April 22 to fight New York Attorney General Eric. T. Schneiderman’s demand for host data.
Schneiderman is seeking to enforce a subpoena, issued in October, to gain access to user records of Airbnb hosts in New York City because he is concerned some are illegally renting apartments. New York’s multiple-dwelling law prohibits the rental of apartments for less than 30 days unless the resident is also present.
At the end of March, Airbnb outlined a plan in which it would collect and remit hotel taxes on behalf of its hosts and guests in New York. The company estimated that the Airbnb community could contribute more than $21 million in taxes to the city and state, but the current tax law says that only hotels can collect and remit occupancy taxes.
After Tuesday’s hearing, Airbnb’s Head of Public Policy David Hantman posted a statement on the company’s blog: “Today, the Attorney General again made it clear that he remains determined to comb through the personal information of thousands of regular New Yorkers just trying to make ends meet. We were proud to stand up for our hosts who share their homes and against this over-broad, government sponsored fishing expedition. Cities like Paris, Amsterdam and Hamburg are embracing the sharing economy and New York shouldn’t be stuck playing catch-up.”
Matt Mittenthal, press secretary to Schneiderman, also released a statement: “Despite all of Airbnb’s rhetoric, the company has never denied that substantial illegal activity is taking place on its site. To the contrary, Airbnb decided before our hearing to remove 2,000 listings posted by ‘bad actors’—hardly isolated cases.”
Airbnb said it began to take action earlier this year to weed out property managers in New York who weren’t providing a “quality, local experience to guests.” The company notified these hosts that they—and their more than 2,000 listings—would be permanently removed from the site.
While some hosts do manage multiple properties, the company has reported that 87 percent of Airbnb hosts occasionally rent out only the property in which they actually live. “The vast majority of our hosts are just regular people, renting out their own home to travelers,” Hantman wrote in a blog post.
The judge overseeing the case has not yet issued a ruling.