ALBANY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman claims most New York City sublets listed by the global rental website Airbnb appear to violate state law, and is urging a judge to uphold his subpoena for information.
Schneiderman wants the California-based company to turn over information about nearly 16,000 “hosts” renting apartments and rooms.
Airbnb wants the investigative subpoena blocked, arguing state law is unconstitutionally vague and Schneiderman’s office is seeking private, confidential information. The company called the effort a “fishing expedition.”
“We don’t know why the Attorney General is so determined to access personal information about Kimberly, Jim, Rimma, Oscar, Cherie, Annabelle and thousands of other Airbnb hosts just like them,” Airbnb said on its website. “But we know this kind of government-sponsored fishing expedition is wrong.”
The law prohibits owners or renters of apartments in multi-unit buildings from renting them for less than 30 days unless they remain present. The law permits having boarders or renting rooms.
In a court affidavit, a state researcher said Airbnb listed 19,522 city rentals Jan. 31, nearly all for less than 30 days and 64 percent for the entire apartment, indicating the host would be absent.
“The current short-term rental law was designed to target illegal hotel operators,” Airbnb said on its website. “The authors of the legislation admitted that Airbnb hosts were not the target of this law. The Attorney General’s attack on thousands of New Yorkers demonstrates why the law should be modified — not repealed — to ensure regular New Yorkers can share the home in which they live.”
Court arguments are scheduled Tuesday in Albany.
The issue comes to a head after complaints of prostitution rings using apartments and parties going on in homes of unsuspecting renters, 1010 WINS’ Juliet Papa reported.
In March, a Manhattan comedian rented out his studio apartment to what he thought was a family in town for a wedding, but instead he returned home to find a wild sex party being broken up.
Meanwhile, Harlem officials are calling for increased oversight of Airbnb rentals and stronger enforcement of the 2010 law, claiming that the growing use of Airbnb is amplifying the affordable housing crisis.
“This is a very simple issue: every apartment converted into an illegal hotel room is an apartment that’s off the market for permanent residents — exacerbating New York City’s crisis-level housing shortage and increasing rents,” said State Sen. Liz Krueger. “Airbnb, a tech titan valued at $10 billion, has made a decision to profit off of New York City and the everyday people who live here by allowing scofflaws to run large-scale illegal hotel operations on their site and by encouraging everyday New Yorkers to rent out their apartments and open themselves to the risk of eviction — without even properly warning them.”
“Airbnb thinks they can buy, bully, and lawyer their way out of respecting our local laws,” Krueger added.
“Being that Airbnb is not from here, I don’t think they much care if the character of this neighborhood is preserved,” stated Congressman Charles Rangel. “It doesn’t seem as if a company like Airbnb cares much at all what happens to our neighborhoods. That’s plain wrong.”
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