Airbnb is not in the clear yet. In court papers filed today, New York State Supreme Court ruled in favor of the $10 billion rental company and quashed a subpoena for data about illegal Airbnb hosts. However, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman plans to reissue the subpoena this week, narrowing it down to the judge's specifications.
According to the New York Daily News, the judge thought the subpoena was overreaching. The AG's office said the results of the subpoena might potentially help them figure out unpaid taxes, as well as who was violating hotel laws. Using a study conducted by the travel news site Skift, the Attorney General assumed there were 15,000 illegal hosts, but Airbnb began ejecting bad apples after a settlement with Schneiderman fell through.
"The subpoena at issue, as drafted, seeks materials that are irrelevant to the inquiry at hand and accordingly, must be quashed," Acting state Supreme Court Justice Gerald Connolly writes in court papers filed Tuesday.
The court grants Airbnb's "instant application to quash the subpoena as overbroad" and denies Schneiderman's motion to compel the popular apartment-sharing site to hand over the requested data about its hosts.
Here is a statement from Matt Mittenthal, spokesperson for the Attorney General:
"The judge's decision specifically found evidence that a 'substantial' number of Airbnb hosts may be violating the tax laws and the law that prohibits illegal hotels. This comes as no surprise, given that Airbnb itself removed some 2,000 New York-based listings from its site. Our office is committed to enforcing a law that provides vital protections for building residents and tourists alike. The judge rejected all of AirBnb's arguments except for a narrow technical issue, and we will reissue the subpoena to address it."
The AG's office has some reason to hope a less sprawling subpoena won't get quashed this. For example, the judge seemed suspicious Airbnb was facilitating illegal activity:
"The record before the Court indicates that there are Hosts regularly using their apartments to provide lodging to guests who may not be complying with the state and local tax registration and/or collection requirements."
The judge also didn't buy Airbnb's claim that there was no legal precedent:
"[Airbnb's] assertions that a factual predicate has not been established are without merit as there is evidence that a substantial number of Hosts may be in violation of the Multiple Dwelling Law and/or New York State and/or New York City tax provisions..."
Airbnb is not waiting for the reissued subpoena, which would have to be quashed by the judge again, to celebrate. Here's a statement Airbnb sent to Valleywag about the ruling:
This decision is good news for New Yorkers who simply want to share their home and the city they love. Now, it's time for us to work together. Airbnb hosts and the Attorney General share a common goal: we all want to make New York a better place to live, work and visit. We look forward to continuing to work with the Attorney General's Office to make New York stronger for everyone.
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