Airbnb Will Hand Over Host Data to New York
Airbnb, the apartment sharing service, and New York law enforcement officials came to an agreement Wednesday after a dispute over rental data that lasted for the better part of a year.
Under the terms of the d eal, Eric T. Schneiderman, the New York State attorney general, will get the information he is seeking about Airbnb hosts in New York City, but it will be stripped of names and other personally identifiable information.
That satisfies the short-term rental company, which did not want its law-abiding hosts to be subjected to what it called a “fishing expedition” by regulators.
The attorney general will have a year to use the data to identify bad actors — hosts who are renting out large blocks of rooms in violation of local laws. If he sees suspicious activity, Airbnb is required to identify the hosts.
Both sides claimed victory.
“We are going to pursue anyone who’s running illegal hotels,” Mr. Schneiderman told The Associated Press.
David Hantman, Airbnb’s head of global public policy, called it “a strong agreement that best protects our community’s data and sets us on a positive path forward.”
As a result of the deal, would-be Airbnb hosts in New York City will have to directly acknowledge that they are confronting a legal thicket of potential issues.
Starting next month, a new host will get a pop-up window on Airbnb’s site that will inform him or her that the New York State Multiple Dwelling Law prohibits apartment rentals of less than 30 days unless a permanent occupant of the apartment is present. The pop-up will also note that there are restrictions on renting out rent-stabilized and rent-controlled properties, and that prospective hosts must be mindful of tax considerations as well.
Airbnb has listings in 34,000 places in 192 countries, and is valued in the neighborhood of $10 billion. Possibilities for New York City on a random weekday next month range from a “very cute and cozy” room in a retired police detective’s apartment in Kew Gardens ($35 a night) to a “spacious mansion” on the Upper East Side ($10,000 a night, but it’s pet friendly).
The listings service has been a boon to people with a spare room who need money, but it has also incited the ire of affordable housing groups, who say it is exacerbating the current crisis by taking much-needed apartments off the market. Other opponents note that having a different set of tourists as neighbors every day can bring up questions of quality of life, safety and tax fairness. Airbnb says those tourists spend a lot of money.
A spokeswoman for the Hotel Association of New York City hailed the deal. Liz Krueger, a state senator who represents the Upper East Side and is a determined Airbnb foe, said the battle was adjourned, not ended.
“Despite today’s settlement, Airbnb remains a scofflaw company whose business model is at odds not just with multiple New York laws, but with the basics of the New York City real estate market,” Ms. Krueger said. “Its leaders believe they can pick and choose which laws they follow and which they ignore.”
Mr. Schneiderman originally subpoenaed Airbnb last fall for information on thousands of hosts in the city. He was not after the individual apartment owner who might rent out his place while he went to Boston or Buffalo for a few days, technically illegal though that might be. He was after landlords who were operating on a larger scale.
Airbnb called the subpoena overbroad even as it purged the site of hosts who were not providing a “quality” experience. A state judge agreed, quashing the subpoena last week. But the judge also said there was evidence that a “substantial” number of hosts were breaking the law.
Mr. Schneiderman immediately filed a narrower subpoena, which provided enough common ground for Wednesday’s deal.
San Francisco, among other cities, is still struggling to figure out how to regulate Airbnb. Mr. Schneiderman said the deal was “a template for other places in the country where the issue has been raised.” An Airbnb spokesman declined to comment on that point.