September 11, 2018

What The New NYC Short-Term Rental Regulation Bill Means For Airbnb Hosts

New York City council members recently voted 45-0 to pass new legislation requiring Airbnb, HomeAway, and other short-term rental sites to disclose host data.  Under Title 26, Int. No. 981-A, anyone who operates a short-term rental property in New York City through “one or more online, computer or application-based platforms” is subject to having their personal identifying information, including their full legal name and residential address, released to the Office of Special Enforcement.

If any of the platforms refuse to release their users’ data,the statute sets fines for noncompliance at $1500 or equal to the company’s yearly earnings from properties in New York City. The executive director of the Office of Special Enforcement, Christian Klossner, claims that the law is critical because the data would assist the city in preserving housing availability and improving safety for both neighborhood residents and visitors.

This is not the first time that New York City officials and Airbnb have butted heads; not too long ago, the city began strictly enforcing a state law that prevents Class A rental dwellings from being rented for durations of fewer than thirty days. These rules aim directly at Airbnb’s largest American market, potentially endangering their multimillion New York City share if enough hosts start to feel uneasy about data disclosure and possible fines.

For their part, Airbnb has taken an uncharacteristically clear position on the situation by funding a lawsuit against New York City filed by Airbnb host Stanley Karol, who was fined over $30,000 after speaking out in favor of Airbnb at a council meeting—a fine they claim was motivated by council members who have received substantial campaign donations from the hotel lobby. This is on top of their own lawsuit fighting against the new data disclosure law.

Airbnb has rallied hosts on the premise that this law will lead to significant privacy violations and over-policing, which will especially cause harm to hosts who rely heavily on room rental apartment sublets to afford their expensive New York mortgages and rent. CouncilwomanCarlina Rivera, who introduced the bill, hit back by stating her legislative bill is about affordable housing preservation and availability. Council speaker Corey Johnson added to her rebuttal by accusing Airbnb hosts of using the site to dodge tax duties as well as avoid regulations aimed at safety.

HomeAway has also filed their own lawsuit against the city. Both Airbnb and HomeAway have focused on the unconstitutionality of the law in their arguments of hosts, arguing that the new ordinance violates users’ constitutional right to privacy and that it oversteps established government limitations.

Airbnb has long shown a willingness to partner with local governments worldwide in order to ensure that compliance is a top concern for the site. Airbnb filed a similar lawsuit against the city of San Francisco in 2016 and part of their settlement agreement was the establishing of an online registration system for hosts, which allowed for a more streamlined approach to compliance. It is not unreasonable to assume that Airbnb and New York City will probably agree to a similar arrangement.

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