Business

Judge Blocks State AG’s Subpoena About Airbnb Sublets

The Airbnb website is displayed on a laptop on April 21, 2014.  (Photo Illustration by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The Airbnb website is displayed on a laptop on April 21, 2014. (Photo Illustration by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

ALBANY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — A New York State judge on Tuesday blocked a subpoena from the state Attorney General’s office, seeking information about people using the global website Airbnb to make short-term apartment rentals in New York City.

Albany Supreme Court Justice Gerald Connolly wrote that the subpoena filed last year by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman was “overbroad,” granting Airbnb’s motion to quash it.

But Connolly writes that there is evidence that “a substantial number of hosts” may be violating the law and tax provisions.

Schneiderman wants the California-based company to turn over information about nearly 16,000 “hosts” renting apartments and rooms, going back three years. He noted that many listings appear to offer entire unoccupied apartments for very short periods, violating the law against unregulated hotels.

The subpoena seeks host names, addresses, rental rates, lengths of stay and tax data first requested last fall.

Airbnb argued in turn that state law is unconstitutionally vague and Schneiderman’s office is seeking private, confidential information. The company called the effort a “fishing expedition.”

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 last month, 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 issue came to a head after complaints of prostitution rings using apartments and parties going on in homes of unsuspecting renters, 1010 WINS’ Juliet Papa reported last month.

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.

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