Thought you were safe earning extra cash (five grand a month?!) by renting your New York apartment rental out on Airbnb? Not if the state Attorney General has anything to say about it.
New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has issued a subpoena "demanding user data" about Airbnb hosts in New York, reports the New York Daily News. An Airbnb representative told Valleywag that the subpoena covers only the 15,000 hosts, and not all 225,000 users in New York. Airbnb has until today to turn over the data.
In a blog post this morning, David Hantman, Airbnb's global head of public policy, said the company would fight the subpoena:
We always want to work with governments to make the Airbnb community stronger, but at this point, this demand is unreasonably broad and we will fight it with everything we’ve got.
Airbnb has been very clear about investing resources in New York a "model city" for overcoming its regulatory issues. Schneiderman's subpoena is part of an investigation into whether the website breaks the so-called "hotel law" from 2010 that "makes it illegal to use such sites to rent out your own apartment," says the Daily News. Schneiderman has requested user data from similar online listing services and all have cooperated, the paper adds.
Last Thursday, Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky appeared to make nice with local legislators. He suggested that New York hosts pay an occupancy tax and promised to launch a 24/7 hotline for ticked off neighbors.
However, sources told the Daily News that Airbnb has acted differently behind closed doors:
A law enforcement source said AirBnB is actually saying the opposite in private, refusing to help crack down on Big Apple bad apples.
"The taxes are already on the books, so that's a false promise," the source said. "And they certainly haven't been cooperating with the investigation, despite their public promises to go after the guys the state is after."
The Attorney General's investigation is not targeting casual users, the paper notes, but rather lost occupancy tax and the impact on housing supply from "greedy landlords":
Pols rallied against the sites four years ago after complaints of rowdy guests. Worse, some landlords were evicting tenants from rent-regulated apartments so they could offer the pads online — not only breaking the law, but robbing the city of housing.
In his response, Hantman said Airbnb shares the goal of removing "bad actors" from its system and promised to keep New York users informed.
In the days ahead, we’ll continue our conversations with the Attorney General’s office to see if we can work together to support Airbnb hosts and remove bad actors from the Airbnb platform. We are confident we can reach a solution that protects your personal information and cracks down on people who abuse the system.
As these conversations continue, we will always be committed to protecting our hosts’ privacy and we will always stand by the hosts who are the heart and soul of this community. And in the days and weeks ahead, I’ll use this space to keep you informed about this matter.
I’ll also continue to update you on our larger efforts to fix the law that is at issue in this case. Even the politicians who wrote the original New York law agree it was never designed to target ordinary, everyday people who occasionally share their homes. We want to continue to work with policymakers to clarify these rules, fight illegal hotels, and ensure people in New York can share their homes with travelers from around the world.
Despite their stated commitment to transparency, Airbnb, which received the subpoena Friday afternoon, did not notify users until after the news broke.
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