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Airbnb To Hand Over Data On 124 Hosts To New York Attorney General 149

Posted by Soulskill
from the quasi-legal-operations-sometimes-have-consequences dept.
Peer-to-peer lodging service Airbnb has agreed to hand over data on 124 of its hosts in New York as part of an investigation by the state's Attorney General into the operation of illegal hotels. The AG first requested data for almost all of Airbnb's hosts in the state, but after "legal wrangling," that number was whittled down to the current 124. The data in question will be unredacted personal information, meaning names and addresses. In a blog post, Airbnb's David Hantman said, "nothing about these hosting profiles suggests [the Attorney General] is after anyone but individuals who may be flagrantly misusing our platform." Airbnb is confident that the targets of this request are hosts considered to be "bad actors," but they don't explain what classifies somebody as a "bad actor."
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Airbnb To Hand Over Data On 124 Hosts To New York Attorney General

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  • by HoppQ (29469) on Monday August 25, 2014 @02:05AM (#47745751) Homepage

    I believe it's essentially about someone running what is essentially a hotel without paying the taxes that hotels are supposed to pay.

    See http://www.balloon-juice.com/2... [balloon-juice.com]

  • by jklovanc (1603149) on Monday August 25, 2014 @03:24AM (#47745919)

    Do you think that a private arrangement between two individuals to allow someone to stay in a room or apartment or whatever belonging to another in exchange for some cash means that the room/apartment or whatever needs to abide by the same heavy regulations as a hotel?

    As soon as money changes hands it is no longer a "private arrangement". When you charge for a place to stay you are now a hotel unless it is on a month to month basis then you have a roommate. If you are providing the same service as a hotel you are operating a hotel. It is not a "public safety" issue.

    For example, someone renting an apartment but never living there and only renting short term through Airbnb is a bad actor. First, they are running a one room hotel with lower regulatory costs than a hotel. Second they are probably doing it against the lease. Third, they have little incentive to ensure that their tenants are following noise restrictions. Fourth, they are removing a rental apartment from a probably already tight rental market.

  • by Camael (1048726) on Monday August 25, 2014 @05:16AM (#47746147)

    As soon as money changes hands it is no longer a "private arrangement". When you charge for a place to stay you are now a hotel unless it is on a month to month basis then you have a roommate. If you are providing the same service as a hotel you are operating a hotel. It is not a "public safety" issue.

    This summary is inaccurate - it is a "public safety" issue. In the Nigel Warren case where he rented out his room on Airbnb [nytimes.com] in NYC, the judge levied a fine of fine of $2,400 [time.com] after ruling that they were operating an unlicensed hotel.

    The law on which the decision was based, Bill S6873B-2009 [nysenate.gov] states:-

    JUSTIFICATION:

    The Multiple Dwelling Law and local Building, Fire and Housing Maintenance Codes establish stricter fire safety standards for dwellings such as hotels that rent rooms on a day to day (transient) basis than the standards for dwellings intended for month to month (permanent) residence. There are substantial penalties for owners who use dwellings constructed for permanent occupancy (Class A) as illegal hotels. However, the economic incentive for this unlawful and dangerous practice has increased, while it is easier than ever to advertise illegal hotel rooms for rent to tourists over the internet ... It endangers both the legal and illegal occupants of the building because it does not comply with fire and safety codes for transient use.

    I.e. The reasoning given for the law was to protect public safety, specifically to ensure compliance with fire and safety codes.

  • Re:Avoid New York (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 25, 2014 @08:10AM (#47746625)

    *cough* your AG is a Democrat.

    *cough* your state legislature has a massive Democrat majority (~110 out of 150 members) in the Assembly, and a tiny Republican majority (32 out of 63 members?) in the Senate.

    *cough* your Governer is a Democrat.

    Yes, tell us more about how those evil Republicans are crushing your poor widdle throats with anti-competitive laws and enforcement.

    You're a hoot.

  • by sjbe (173966) on Monday August 25, 2014 @08:49AM (#47746807)

    It has EVERYTHING to do with killing innovation. Think about it for a second, who benefits?

    The (probably few) customers who don't get scammed by shady "hosts". The neighbors who don't have to put up with living next to a de-facto hotel which the property is almost certainly not zoned for. The taxing authorities and by extension the local citizens who are probably not receiving the benefits of tax revenue they would otherwise receive. The normal hotels and their employees who lose revenue they likely otherwise would have received.

    Just because something is new doesn't mean it is necessarily good. I don't have a problem with Air Bnb and I actually do wish them the best of luck but just because they think their product is "innovative" doesn't automatically mean it is a good idea. I can see potential problems with the service that are serious and need to be addressed in a more adult way than screaming "KILLING INNOVATION" to anyone who will listen.

  • NYC Resident Here (Score:5, Informative)

    by hirschma (187820) on Monday August 25, 2014 @09:59AM (#47747295)

    People forget that there is another side here - the NYC resident. Consider that there's likely several people within 20 feet of me at any given time - this is the reality of big city living.

    What AirBnB means to me is a diminished quality of life.

    It means "guests" rolling in at 2am, feeling the need to open and close every door and cupboard (and waking up my household). Ringing my bell accidentally at all hours. Using AirBnB to find one-night party space. Smoking everywhere.

    This is all from one apartment directly above me. If I complain to NYC, it means that they're sued to death and evicted (which I'm sorely tempted to do, but the punishment is very harsh). If I don't, I have to live in a noisier, less enjoyable circumstance.

    And yes, I've taken the time to ask the folks upstairs to be more considerate. Their response? "It's our right", even though it's against the law.

    AirBnB sucks.

  • by nbauman (624611) on Monday August 25, 2014 @02:48PM (#47750083) Homepage Journal

    I went to a meeting where I actually heard my local New York State assembly member, Dick Gottfried, and one from the neighboring district, Linda Rosenthal, denounce Airbnb.

    They said that they had never seen lobbying like that before. Everywhere you go in the state capital, you find Airbnb lobbyists. They have a massive lobbying effort.

    I told them that we were discussing it on Slashdot and I asked them to elaborate on exactly why Airbnb was wrong.

    First, they explained, you could always rent out a room in your home -- but you had to stay there. What you can't do is rent your apartment and leave. That's the housing law. (But most leases say that you have to get permission from your landlord to sublet.)

    The big problem is that landlords are deciding to let apartments go vacant rather than rent them to traditional long-term tenants with leases. Instead, they're renting out apartments through Airbnb, and making much more money, as de facto hotels. We have many regulations for hotels, most of them put in for good reason, and they're ignoring the regulations.

    Tenants don't like Airbnb because they reduce the rental housing stock. Landlords won't rent to tenants if they can make more from Airbnb. Furthermore, tenants don't like the heavy traffic of anonymous strangers coming in to their building. (Airbnb rentals are popular among prostitutes, or more properly, commercial sex workers.)

    In effect, if you visit New York City for a week, Airbnb is cheaper. However, if you want to live in New York City, Airbnb would make it harder for you to find permanent housing.

    One of our biggest problems in New York City is that housing is too expensive. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08... [nytimes.com]

    In New York City, most of us believe that poor and working-class people should be able to live here, because it offers them a way up. That's our values. In Houston or Atlanta you have other values. That's your privilege.

    We've worked out ways to do it, including rent control, public housing, and housing subsidies. It's not the perfect solution, but it works. Airbnb would disrupt this system. Retired people were paying $500 a month for a subsidized apartment and subletting it for $200 a night. Taxpayers don't want their subsidies to go for that.

    You may believe that the free market is a panacea that solves all problems. You may believe that we have a moral obligation to have a free market. In New York, we believe that everybody is entitled to his opinion. However, lots of people who don't understand how things work here come to New York and try to sell us on some new scheme. People like that don't usually get far in New York. I hear they have problems elsewhere too.

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